Vessel begins with a young doctor who lived by the sea, and an unlikely idea. Rebecca Gomperts, horrified by the realities created by anti-abortion law around the world, felt compelled to challenge this issue; her method: provide abortions on a ship in offshore waters.
Her project, Women on Waves, begins as flawed spectacle, a media frenzy, faced with governmental, religious, and military blockade. But with each roadblock comes a more refined mission, until Rebecca has the revelation that she can use new technologies to bypass law – and train women to safely give themselves abortions using WHO-sanctioned protocols with pills.
From there we witness her create an underground network of emboldened, informed activists, working at the radical cutting edge of global reproductive rights, who trust women to handle abortion themselves. Vessel is Rebecca’s story: one of a woman who heard and answered a calling, and transformed a wildly improbable idea into a global movement.
A Sovereignty Productions presentation, in association with Fork Films, Impact Partners, and Chicken and Egg Pictures.
Vessel was made possible with generous support from HIVOS, NYSCA, Mary Wohlford Foundation, Hope Foundation, E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, Puffin Foundation, Mama Cash, over 150 individual donors, an army of fabulous volunteers, and the fiscal sponsorship of Women Make Movies.
Women on Waves was founded in 2000 with the aim to prevent unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortions by providing sexual health services, including early medical abortions (abortion with pills), on board a Dutch ship, outside the territorial waters of countries where abortion is illegal.
In the last 10 years Women on Waves has gererated enormous public interest, and much controversy, with ship campaigns in Ireland, Poland, Portugal, Spain, and Morocco. The ship campaigns are conducted by invitation and in collaboration with local partner organizations, and are designed to add momentum to activist efforts already on the ground working to liberalize law.
Although legalization of abortion is important, medical abortion now gives women the possibility to take their lives into their own hands, regardless of the legality of abortion or the willingness of doctors. Ensuring that WHO-researched information about medical abortion is easily available to women can save women’s lives. Therefore, Women on Waves now focuses on helping women access information about medical abortion by distributing information through the internet, grassroots efforts on the ground, and by supporting the creation of safe abortion telephone hotlines in collaboration with partner organizations across South America, Africa, Asia, and Europe.
For more information, or if you need help, please visit www.womenonwaves.org
Rebecca Gomperts lands the ship in Valencia, Spain
The ship awaits entry to Portugal
Rebecca and the Irish press
The ship arrives in Spain
Ecuadorian activists publicize the hotline
Cecilia and Paula answer the hotline
Rebecca on the ship
Volunteers and women on the ship
the Women on Waves ship