AMSTERDAM - In a bid to promote abortion in the Muslim-majority kingdom, a Dutch boat has set sail for Morocco, a move likely to spark uproar in the Arab country.
The ship is on its way," Rebecca Gomperts, the founder of Women on Waves, a Dutch non-profit organization, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Monday, October 1.
We can't yet disclose the place and time of arrival... We expect it to stay for up to a week.
The Dutch organization says it was invited to Morocco by local youth group the Alternative Movement for Individual Liberties (MALI), to raise support for the legalization of abortion in the country.
Going on sails over the past 11 years, the group's visit to Morocco is the first to a Muslim country where abortion is illegal and criminalized.
Citing government figures, the Dutch group says between 600 and 800 abortions take place every day in Morocco.
"The problem is that only about 200 cases are done properly, by women who have money," Gomperts said.
She added that the rest resort to dangerous methods because they are unable to afford the expensive treatment.
This leads to the deaths of 78 Moroccan women each year on average, Gomperts claimed, citing statistics provided by the World Health Organization.
The Dutch group does not perform operations but promotes medical abortion with pills.
It also works with local women's organizations to establish safe abortion help lines and provide information on sexual and reproductive health issues.
The abortion ship has already visited Ireland, Poland, Portugal and Spain, sparking protests in each country from pro-life groups.
Gomperts argues that the ship's visit has nothing to do with religious beliefs.
"I understand that (the visit) is seen as a provocation by some religious groups, the Dutch doctor said.
But this is about women's health. It has nothing to do with religion.
While Islam permits preventing pregnancy for valid reasons, it does not allow doing violence to it once it occurs.
Muslim jurists have agreed unanimously that after the fetus is completely formed and has been given a soul, abortion is haram.
It is also a crime, the commission of which is prohibited to the Muslims because it constitutes an offense against a complete, living human being
The response of Moroccan authorities to the visit is not yet clear.
On Monday, local daily Al-Tajdid, the mouthpiece of Morocco's ruling Islamist party, questioned whether the government would allow the ship to enter Moroccan waters.
Gomperts admitted that Rabat's reaction was "hard to predict".
She, however, argued that any attempt to block the visit would be an "illegal" intervention in the freedom of travel and the freedom of expression.