The Moroccan navy on Thursday blocked the Mediterranean harbour in which a controversial Dutch “abortion ship” was due to dock in the first such trip to a Muslim country, one of the organisers said.
But access to the harbour was prohibited, because of “military manoeuvres,” an AFP journalist at the site was told, adding that there was a large police presence.
At around midday, between 200 to 300 Islamists staged a protest against the visit, the AFP journalist reported.
Women on Waves, the Dutch group organising the trip, is seeking to inform women about how to induce “safe legal medical abortions,” offer the necessary medication and start a discussion on legalising the practice in Morocco.
They have already set up a hotline.
Kleiverga said that, despite being illegal, around 700 abortions take place in Morocco every day, many of them exposing the women to dangerous and sometimes fatal treatment.
On Wednesday, in the first government reaction to the planned trip, the health ministry said the ship was not authorised to operate in Morocco and called on the relevant authorities to prevent it from doing so.
Local youth group the Alternative Movement for Individual Liberties (MALI), which helped organise the trip, said the authorities had informed Women on Waves of the decision to prevent the abortion ship reaching the harbour.
But Kleiverga insisted that the boat would not counsel or treat women in Morocco, hinting that it might transport women outside Morocco’s maritime borders before doing so.
MALI activist Ibtissam Lachgare said the group, which includes two abortion doctors, was awaiting the arrival of a Dutch woman MP at Smir.
In the past 11 years, a Women on Waves ship has visited Ireland, Poland, Portugal and Spain, sparking protests in each country from pro-life groups.
Rebecca Gomperts, the group’s founder, told AFP that illegal abortions cause the deaths of 78 Moroccan women each year on average, citing statistics provided by the World Health Organisation.
But Moroccan pro-life groups dispute those figures.
Ordinary Moroccans have voiced strong opposition to the visit.