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'Abortion ship' arrives in Ireland

abortion clinic
The clinic is in a container welded to the deck  

DUBLIN, Ireland -- A controversial Dutch vessel equipped to carry out on-board abortions has arrived in Dublin's river Liffey.

The 100-foot converted fishing trawler Aurora was accompanied on its arrival on Thursday by a police launch but there was no sign of the anticipated pro-life protests.

Having completed the four-day voyage from Holland, it is expected to dispense contraceptives and family planning advice in Dublin before also visiting Cork during its 10-day stay in Ireland.

The Amsterdam-based Women On Waves Foundation, which organised the vessel, refused to comment on whether staff on board would be carrying out abortions -- illegal in the Republic apart from in exceptional circumstances.

N. Ireland abortion law review ordered  

The vessel, registered in the Dutch port of Scheveningen, carries an operating theatre within a converted container attached to its deck.

While the group has said it does not intend carrying out surgical abortions, it is understood it may administer the abortion pill to pregnant Irish women under Dutch law while 12 miles offshore in international waters.

Lizet Kraal, one of the Dutch organisers of the trip, told the Press Association she was "not anxious but excited" about their arrival and explained that security would be provided by women serving in the Irish army.

It had been reported that the crew may be issued with bullet-proof vests as protection against feared militant anti-abortion activity, which has so far failed to materialise.

'Debate, not hysteria, is helpful'

John Smyth, spokesman for the Irish Pro Life campaign, described the exercise as a "publicity stunt."

He told PA: "We feel that it is not going to help women in crisis pregnancies in any way.

"There is already a debate under way in Ireland on the issue, there has been for a number of years, and we see Women on Waves as a distraction from that -- any debate is helpful but raising hysteria is not."

He said his organisation had not planned direct protest, adding: "We have called for our supporters to not do anything that would add to the publicity.

"But we cannot guarantee that individuals won't come down and ignore our calls and engage in militant action."

Earlier in the week, Human Life International (Ireland) vowed to launch a rival boat.

One English-based group opposed to abortions said sending the boat smacked of "patronising neo-colonialism."

"How would the Dutch government react if an Irish group called 'Drug Addicts Under the Waves' sailed into Dutch ports to pick up Dutch drug addicts, took them 12 miles offshore and butchered them?" LIFE said in a statement.

Father Pat O'Donoghue, a spokesman for the Roman Catholic archdiocese, said the voyage seemed to be motivated by something "other than an attempt to help people."

He thought Ireland would hold true to its traditional "veneration for life."

• Women on Waves
• Human Life International
• Irish Government

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