I love it when I come across organizations and campaigns that I had no idea existed! Women on Waves (WOW) is a new discovery of mine. The organization is based in the Netherlands, but helps provide abortion, education and advocacy for reproductive rights in areas where it is illegal. It does this in part, by sailing a ship into international waters where local laws don’t apply. Once transported on board, women are able to obtain safe abortion, contraceptives, training and reproductive health information.
WOW was founded by Dr. Rebecca Gomperts in 1999. She had met women in South America that were suffering physically and mentally from unwanted pregnancies, lack of reproductive freedom and unsafe abortions. It was the experiences of these women that became the motivation for Women on Waves.
Beyond providing abortions and education on the ship, WOW also does trainings and provides abortion hotlines. One of their focuses is on the use of Mifepriston and Misoprostol, both often referred to as abortion pills. These can be used effectively and safely until the 9th week. This provides an option for women who do not have access to abortions in clinics.
A recent Huffington post article gives an account of a workshop in Tanzania where Misoprostol is registered as a drug to stop postpartum bleeding. The training took place in a rural area near the Congo and Burundi borders. Activists and volunteers learned how to get the drug and use it safely. One of the biggest surprises for me was a picture from the workshop with a large number of male attendees. This gives me a lot of hope for change.
A documentary is being produced about Women on Waves. Vessel will document the work of WOW and the confrontation and support they receive in different locations. When you visit Vessel The Film website you can see some of the footage they have gathered so far and a preamble for the film.
One of the clips is from the ship’s arrival in Spain. It is an empowering moment for choice activists on the scene. However, they are also greeted by shouts of “Terrorists” and “Fascists.” I particularly think the label of fascists is ironic and laughable since fascism is all about control and denying people of free choice.
The opposite of fascism is Women on Waves and their effort to empower women with control over their bodies, reproduction and choices.