<alter-ee> Dutch Abortion Ship Crew Say Denied Entry to Poland

Zaczek alter-ee@lists.most.org.pl
Sun, 22 Jun 2003 12:13:13 +0200


Dutch Abortion Ship Crew Say Denied Entry to Poland
Sat June 21, 2003 07:43 AM ET
WLADYSLAWOWO, Poland (Reuters) - The crew of a Dutch floating abortion
clinic accused Poland on Saturday of denying their ship entry into a port in
the Roman Catholic country which has strict laws on terminating pregnancy.
The ship, which offers abortions in international waters to women in
countries where the procedure is more restricted than in the Netherlands,
was forced to anchor offshore after being turned away from Wladyslawowo on
Friday.

Women on Waves head Rebecca Gomperts and local abortion-rights activists
said they were told the port was closed due to bad weather.

But while the ship was waiting offshore at least one other ship sailed out,
they said.

"The law is being broken, this Dutch ship cannot enter the port, although it
has the right to -- this shows that Polish democracy is still very
immature," Polish activist Wanda Nowicka told a news conference in
Wladyslawowo.

Port officials were not immediately available to comment.

Outside the news conference about 50 protesters pelted participants with
eggs as they entered.

"We will not allow the murder of unborn children in Poland," news agency PAP
quoted right-wing MP Robert Strak as saying.

"We will follow this ship and block it. No one should have any illusions
that this ship will enter."

Poland has one of the most strict abortion laws in Europe and Polish Pope
John Paul II, head of the world's billion Catholics and a staunch opponent
of abortion, is widely regarded as the country's greatest moral authority.

Poland's abortion laws have changed several times since the fall of
communism in 1989, reflecting power shifts between right-wing governments
and the post-communist left, which has liberalized abortion law.

Currently abortion is allowed only if pregnancy is a threat to a woman's
health, if the fetus is damaged or after rape. Doctors face up to three
years in jail for illegal abortions.

Before Poland's referendum on European Union membership two weeks ago the
left-wing government avoided the issue in what was widely seen as a deal to
ensure church support for a yes vote.

But since the successful poll the issue has re-emerged, with a group of MPs
from the ruling party calling for liberalization.

Women on Waves hit a raw nerve in Ireland in 2001 when its abortion ship
docked in the center of Dublin, but Gomperts said the reaction was very
different, with Irish police and port officials providing more support than
their Polish counterparts.