RABAT, Morocco -- Moroccan authorities said Wednesday that aDutch ship promoting legal abortions set to dock in Morocco is operatingoutside the law and could possibly be stopped before arriving at anorthern Mediterranean port.
The Dutch ship, which promotes safeand legal abortions worldwide, was invited by a Moroccan women's groupto raise awareness in the struggle to legalize abortions, which are notallowed in this conservative Muslim country. It is scheduled to arriveat the port of Smir Thursday.
It would be the "Women on Waves" boat's first landfall in a Muslim country.
"Wehaven't been informed about the arrival of this boat and from asecurity standpoint, it's a boat we don't know or why it is coming, so Idon't see what we can do," Minister of Interior Mohend Laenser told theAssociated Press.
Minister of Education Lahcen Daoudi added thatany boat coming to Morocco had to respect its laws. "The people chargedwith applying the law will apply it on everything to do with the boat,"he said.
According to a statement by the organization, the shipcan provide women with safe and legal abortions under Dutch law ininternational waters until the six-and-a-half week of pregnancy.
Theorganization said it had set up a hotline for Moroccan women to giveinformation about abortion, including locally available pharmaceuticalsthat can be safely used to perform abortions at home.
"There arebetween 600 and 800 abortions a day in Morocco, that's an enormousamount," said Ibtissame Lachgar, a member of MALI (Alternative Movementfor Individual Liberties), the group that invited the boat. "We want tolegalize abortion, to condemn this law that destroys freedom, that wefind criminal."
The Moroccan Health Ministry issued a statementthat if the people on the boat were intending to perform operations,they would be in violation of the law.
"The Ministry of Health ...was never informed of this event and has not authorized any party ordoctor, not residing in Morocco, to carry out this medical procedure,"it said.
The Women on Waves organization has previously promotedcontroversy and angered authorities in conservative Catholic countries,where abortion is also often frowned upon.
In 2003, the boat docked in Poland and the following year was prevented from docking in Portugal.