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feminist wire | daily newsbriefs

June-20-03

Women on Waves in Poland

FMF Provides Security Training to Mobile Abortion Clinic

WASHINGTON, DC-- Women on Waves arrives today in Poland, where access to abortion is extremely restricted, to provide abortion and reproductive health services to women on a specially equipped ship. The Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF) is currently onsite providing security training for the Dutch ship, led by Rebecca Gomperts, MD, and donating time, staff and resources to ensure the safety of the staff, crew, and women patients aboard the sailing clinic.

Margaret M. Moore, FMF director of law enforcement operations and a former Special Agent in Charge at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, has been working with staff and community volunteers in Poland and the Netherlands for several weeks, training them to assess threats of violence and implement specialized security plans. Moore has also served as a liaison with local Polish law enforcement in an effort to curb any potential violence and ensure safety around and aboard the ship. Moore will be in Poland assisting security operations this week and will be available for interviews.

"This exciting project challenges laws that make abortion essentially illegal and cause havoc for women around the world," said FMF President Eleanor Smeal. "Once again, the Catholic Church, which is steeped in scandal worldwide and in Poland, is still trying to control abortion policy and women's lives," Smeal added, referring to efforts by the Catholic Church last January to amend a resolution proposed in the European Parliament that called for all members and nations joining the European Union (EU) to legalize abortion. The Church demanded that the treaty allowing its accession to the EU contain language stipulating Poland's freedom to set its own abortion policy.

Under the current law, women in Poland are permitted to obtain abortions only when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, when the pregnancy constitutes a threat to the life of the woman, or when there is "heavy, irreversible" damage to the fetus. According to the Polish Federation of Women and Family Planning, because of these restrictions, there are as many as 200,000 illegal abortions performed in Poland each year. Women who can afford to travel abroad for an abortion will pay as much as $500, the equivalent of more than one months' pay, and with more than 60% of women in Poland living under the poverty threshold, this leaves many women with no choice other than an unsafe illegal underground abortion. The United Nations estimates that 80,000 women and girls worldwide die annually from complications resulting from botched, illegal abortions. Women's health and feminist organizations estimate the number to be greater than 200,000.

The Feminist Majority Foundation runs the National Clinic Access Project, the nation's largest and oldest clinic defense project, providing emergency clinic security, assistance, and community organizing support, monitoring anti-abortion extremists, and working with law enforcement to improve responsiveness to clinic violence.

Women on Waves is a non-profit organization concerned with women's human rights. Its mission is to prevent unwanted pregnancy and unsafe abortions throughout the world. The Dutch vessel will provide non-surgical abortions, contraception, counseling, and other services. Working in close cooperation with local organizations, Women on Waves wants to respond to an urgent medical need, empower women to exercise their human right to reproductive health, and draw public attention to the consequences of unwanted pregnancy and illegal abortion.

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