Mexico: Abortion on the High Seas

Visiting countries where abortions are illegal, a Dutch doctor secrets women out to international waters to provide the procedure.

In Ixtapa, Mexico, Ian Urbina met with ship captain, gynecologist, and artful dodger Rebecca Gomperts, who runs Women on Waves. This organization gives women who live in countries where abortions are illegal and dangerous the option of getting an abortion. Gomperts visits various ports–often tussling publicly with local officials–and shuttles pregnant women out to international waters where she administers medical abortions through a set of pills that induce a miscarriage. 

Women on Waves rarely gets a warm welcome in ports. In Ireland, the organization’s sailboat faced bomb threats. In Poland, Gomperts was met in port by protesters throwing eggs and red paint. In Morocco, she was nearly accosted by an angry mob. In Spain, opponents tried to tow her boat without her permission, but she cut their ropes before they could finish.