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Dutch say abortion boat flouts law

Sea of Change
The abortion clinic is in a shipping container on deck  

THE HAGUE, Netherlands -- Dutch doctors who have sailed to Ireland to offer abortions offshore have no licence for their clinic, ministers say.

The two doctors and a nurse from a pro-abortion group were on board a converted fishing boat with an abortion clinic on deck.

The ship set sail from the Netherlands on Monday and was expected to reach Dublin later this week.

The group planned to administer abortion pills in international waters outside the 12-mile territorial limit of Ireland, where the practice is illegal.

Dutch Health Minister Els Borst told Parliament on Tuesday that the Women on Waves Foundation, which chartered the ship, had applied for a clinic licence but had not yet received it, Associated Press news agency reported.

Justice Minister Benk Korthals then told the legislature that "abortions are illegal without a licence" and the doctors faced up to four-and-a-half years imprisonment.

However, he said he did not have the authority to act against the crew since no crime had been committed yet.

"We will undertake action, as soon as we know that Dutch law has been violated. But we cannot do that until the boat has returned to the Netherlands," Korthals said.

A Women on Waves spokeswoman said the group would "obey Dutch law," but did not say the crew would refrain from terminating pregnancies.

Before leaving the Netherlands, the group said it planned to administer abortion pills, but did not expect to do surgical abortions.

• Dutch Ministry of Health
• Dutch Ministry of Justice
• Women on Waves
• The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children
• Cry for Life

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