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SAN JOSE, Guatemala (ChurchMilitant.com) - With the help of a strong response from the Catholic Church, the Guatemalan army has blocked a Dutch "abortion boat" that circumvents national laws by performing abortions in international waters.
On February 23, President Jimmy Morales — who reportedly supports the right to life from conception — said, "The Guatemalan army, responsible for the territorial sea and with instructions from the army commander general, will not allow this Nongovernmental organization (NGO) to carry out these activities."
The Guatemalan army confiscated the boat Thursday and is currently holding it. The army released a statement saying the president informed us to defend "human life and the laws of our country."
Known as Women on Waves, the Amsterdam-based boat travels across the world, targeting women who live in countries where abortions are illegal. The boat arrived on February 22 at Marina Pez Vela and was set for boarding by pregnant women on February 23.
Women on Waves claims to perform medical abortions legally, because they administer the fatal medicine in international waters.
Gonzalo de Villa, president of Guatemala's Conference of Catholic Bishops, said, "This undermines the sovereignty and dignity of the country, taking into account the laws that we have. As the Catholic Church, it seems very offensive that this entity comes to make this abortion practice — that is ultimately practicing murder — they call the reproductive human rights of women."
One Catholic seminarian reportedly stormed a Women on Waves press conference shouting, "[T]his is not a boat for life." He continued, "[T]hey are fighting for life and human rights, but it seems that murder has become a human right."
De Villa added, "We are being treated like a third-class banana country, we are offended that this intervention comes to try to skip Guatemalan law with a trinket."
Women on Waves claims "21,600 women [in Guatemala] are hospitalized with complications, and unsafe abortions are the third cause of maternal death."
Rebecca Gomperts, founder of Women on Waves, confirmed the Guatemala trip was the first since 2012 when the Moroccan navy blocked the harbor to prevent the ship from docking.
Gomperts has been tweeting about the experience:
Abortion ship is in Guatemala! https://t.co/mgmvKvCdgL— Rebecca Gomperts (@rebeccagomperts) February 23, 2017
For immediate release: our ship has been detained and the army is stating they will denounce it, in a clear... https://t.co/oIAEwCwYB9
Guatemala has some of the most pro-life laws in the world. Currently abortion is illegal there except in the case of danger to the mother's life. About 50 percent of Guatemala's 15 million citizens are Catholic.