With increasing restrictions on abortion rights here in the U.S., it is often hard to remember that there are places around the world where getting an abortion is not only difficult, but illegal. In those places, many desperate women are forced to get illegal, unsanctioned and incredibly dangerous abortions, often with tragic results. According to the Guttmacher Institute, complications due to unsafe abortions account for approximately 13 percent of maternal deaths worldwide, nearly 50,000 deaths a year.
Additionally, estimates for 2005 indicate that 8.5 million women annually experience complications from unsafe abortions that require medical attention, and three million do not receive the care they need. Thanks to an amazing reproductive rights group, however, that might be changing.
Women On Waves, a Dutch group, is cleverly dodging local laws against abortion by providing safe medical abortions onboard a ship. How? Local laws apply only in territorial waters, which extend 12 miles offshore. Further than that and the laws of the boat’s country of origin apply. In the Netherlands, abortion is legal until 24 weeks, or fetal viability, though most doctors stop at 22 weeks. Either way, this allows Women on Waves to step in and administer abortions (using the drug Misoprostol). Trained medical professionals ensure the safety of every patient onboard. And clearly, their work is needed — according to the Guttmacher Institute, in 2008, more than 97% of abortions in Africa were unsafe and in Latin America, 95% of abortions were unsafe.
And if they weren’t already awesome enough, Women on Waves also provides information on how to self-induce an abortion using Misoprostol. Their trainings in Surinam and Bangladesh as well as hotlines with similar information in 10 other countries are an incredible resource. By helping women in desperate situations get the care they so badly need, either through information or actual abortions, Women on Waves is an inspiration.
Photo credit: camknows
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