BREAKING: Women on Waves Boat Detained in Guatemala
Leticia Zenevich, [email protected]
National Network of Abortion Funds, [email protected]
February 25, 2017 — Women on Waves, a member of the National Network of Abortion Funds, works to provide contraceptives, information, training, workshops, and safe and legal abortion services outside territorial waters in countries where abortion is illegal. In international waters (12 miles off the coast of a country) any laws banning abortion do not apply. Women on Waves provides these vital reproductive health services using a boat while working in close cooperation with local organizations to respond to urgent medical need and draw public attention to their campaign.
Since February 23rd, a Women on Waves boat offering safe abortions at the harbour Marina Pez Vela outside of Guatemala, has been detained in port. Rebecca Gomperts, Director of Women on Waves, and Quetzali Cerezo, Director of AME Guatemala, stayed on the ship today after rejecting an unlawful order revoking the licenses of the ship. They explained that the letter delivered by the Guatemalan army “did not mention the possibilities to appeal and it was not an official court order. When we mentioned this and refused to sign for the receipt, they withdrew the letter. So the licenses are all still valid.” Women in Guatemala City subsequently began protesting in front of the Ministry of Defense, requesting that the Women on Waves boat remain in Guatemala to provide access to safe abortion.
As of the evening of February 24th, the Guatemalan Department of Immigration decided to expel the boat and crew from the country for violating Guatemala law. Women on Waves intends to press charges against Guatemalan authorities due to violations against human rights, and state that:
“Guatemalan women have the human right to a safe abortion and to an informed, fact-based national dialogue and this is what this action is about. We’re very sorry we still could not help any of the hundreds of women who have called us in the last 48h but we will keep fighting, both to liberate our crew, who are bravely standing all sorts of human rights violations, and to stand for the human rights of Guatemalan women.”
Yamani Hernandez, Executive Director of the National Network of Abortion Funds, shares her support for Women on Waves:
“Detention, expulsion, and punishment have no place in health care. A political climate in which people are actively being harassed and criminalized for seeking or providing abortion care is dangerous and inhumane. Encouraging the criminalization of people who have abortions is not only illogical but also immoral, provoking violence towards the abortion care community. This is as true in the United States as it is in Guatemala. That’s why Women on Waves and the National Network of Abortion Funds work every day to end rhetoric, policies, and practices promoting the punishment of pregnant people and the health care providers who support them through pregnancy, miscarriage, birth or abortion.”
Updates on the detention of the Women on Waves boat can be found on their website.