A Dutch ship promoting safe sex and providing "offshore" abortions has Moroccan lawmakers in a frenzy ahead of its scheduled arrival on Thursday.
"Moroccan law forbids abortion. Moroccan religious identity say it is forbidden and so does Islam. So the government cannot allow this ship to come to Morocco," Abdelmalik Zaza was quoted as saying in Al-Tajdid, the newspaper of ruling Islamist party the PJD.
Chafik Chraibi, who leads a Moroccan NGO aiming to perform legal abortions, said it's a good "symbolic" effort but added: "To practice abortion at sea, in international waters, is for me a way of circumventing the law and is something clandestine."
The Telegraph has more information on what is being dubbed the "abortion ship":
Many in Morocco expect it to be turned away.
The Dutch group says the purpose of the visit is to provide women with "safe legal medical abortions" up to 6.5 weeks into pregnancy, in a country where the practice is illegal and taboo and can expose women to grave health risks.
It also said it will set up a hotline to inform women about safe medical abortions that can be induced at home.
Doctor Rebecca Gomperts, the founder of Women on Waves, told AFP that around 600 to 800 Moroccan women have an abortion every day.
"The problem is that only about 200 cases are done properly, by women who have money," Gomperts said, with the rest resorting to dangerous methods because they are unable to afford the expensive treatment.
This leads to the deaths of 78 Moroccan women each year on average, Gomperts claimed, citing statistics provided by the World Health Organisation. [Emphasis added]
"We haven't been informed about the arrival of this boat and from a security standpoint, it's a boat we don't know or why it is coming, so I don't see what we can do," Minister of Interior Mohend Laenser told The Associated Press.
But the Minister of Education Lahcen Daoudi added that any boat coming to Morocco has to respect the country's laws. "The people charged with applying the law will apply it on everything to do with the boat," he warned.
The Women on Waves organization has previously promoted controversy and angered authorities in conservative Catholic countries, where abortion is also often frowned upon.
In 2003, the boat docked in Poland and the following year was prevented from docking in Portugal.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.