Irish Give Abortion Ship the Silent Treatment

DUBLIN, Ireland—When the world's first floating abortion clinic arrives off the coast of Ireland, the country's two leading pro-life organizations will do their best to ignore it.

“It's a publicity stunt by a bunch of loonies, and we are not going to lend it any credibility,” said Justin Barrett of Youth Defense.

John Smith of the Pro-Life Campaign said his organization would not “sink to their level of reducing women in crisis to the level of a publicity stunt.”

“For this service to work, you would have to use some women with crisis pregnancies as guinea pigs, and I don't think the Irish public will like that,” he said.

Named “The Sea of Change,” but already dubbed “the death ship” by some pro-lifers, the floating clinic is a converted fishing boat.

No surgical abortions will be performed on the vessel. The eight-person crew, which includes a gynecologist and a nurse, will distribute RU-486 pills to Irish mothers wanting to abort.

The vessel is owned by a Dutch group, Women on Waves Foundation, whose founder, Dr. Rebecca Gomperts, said it will offer abortion services to women in countries like Ireland, where abortion is illegal, or in Third World countries where abortions are difficult to obtain.

Gomperts has been quoted as saying that Dutch law allows abortions to be carried out on board the craft in international waters.

However, the Netherlands' justice minister, Albert Kortals, said June 12 that the group had not been licensed to perform abortions and would face imprisonment on their return to Holland if abortions were performed under the Dutch flag without a proper license.

The boat left the Hague, Netherlands, June 12 and was due to arrive off the Irish coast several days later. It will moor outside Ireland's territorial waters.

The trip to Ireland, expected to last about a month, is a pilot program that could eventually include parts of Africa.

Smith said: “Women on Waves claim they are highlighting what they call the hypocrisy of our abortion laws and the fact that hundreds of women travel to England from Ireland for terminations each year. But we can highlight the hypocrisies of other European countries that deny the humanity of the unborn child and who allow abortions almost up to birth.”

The Irish Family Planning Association, which provides some assistance to women seeking abortions in England, expressed some skepticism about the project.

“When RU-486 is administered, a woman is supposed to rest for about an hour to avoid nausea. I don't see being on board a converted trawler as being in any way helpful for that,” said Tony O'Brien, chief executive of the family planning association.