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Irish protest over 'abortion boat'

abortion clinic
The clinic is in a shipping container welder to the deck  

DUBLIN, Ireland -- An Irish anti-abortion group has said it will launch a boat in opposition to a pro-abortion group sailing from the Netherlands.

The Dutch boat, sponsored by Women on Waves, set sail for Ireland -- where abortion is illegal -- to offer abortions to Irish women.

The 35-metre (115 ft) converted fishing boat, with a makeshift treatment room welded to its deck, plans to offer off-shore abortions to Irish women during its two-week stay.

However, anti-abortion group Human Life International said on Wednesday it planned to launch a counter-offensive.

N. Ireland abortion law review ordered  

HLI has chartered its own boat to arrive at Dublin port at the same time as the Dutch-registered Aurora, which is due in the early hours of Friday.

"We aim to counteract the deadly propaganda being put out by this group. We will offer practical advice and counselling to guide women through pregnancy," HLI's David Walsh told Reuters news agency.

He emphasised the action would be non-violent, and non-confrontational.

Earlier, media reports had said the floating Dutch abortion clinic was not licensed, but a Women on Waves spokeswoman dismissed those reports, saying the group fully intended to carry out abortions on board the ship if appropriate.

"This is a technical detail pertaining to Dutch rules, and I am 100 percent sure it will not affect our Irish clients," Joke van Kampen told Reuters.

Media reports said the Dutch medical team could face up to four-and-a-half years in prison in the Netherlands for offering the RU 486 abortion drug without a permit.

Van Kampen said the group would offer RU 486 on the ship while it was outside Irish territorial waters and therefore beyond Irish law.

A spokesman for the group in Ireland said it had already received about 40 enquiries from Irish women. About 6,000 Irish women travel to Britain each year for abortions.

• Women on Waves
• Human Life International

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