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.  Her method: to 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 blockades.  But with each setback comes a more refined mission, until Rebecca has the revelation that she can use new technologies to bypass law – and train women to give themselves safe abortions using WHO-sanctioned protocols with pills.

We witness the creation of an underground network of emboldened, informed activists, working at the 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.

Vessel premiered at South by Southwest Film Festival in 2014, winning the Audience Award for Documentary in Competition and a Special Jury Award for Political Courage. The film was released theatrically in New York, and went on to screen at over 230 festivals and community screenings worldwide. Additional awards include the inaugural Peter Wintonick Award from Sheffield DocFest, the Adrienne Shelly Excellence in Filmmaking Award, the Moving Mountains Honorable Mention from Mountainfilm in Telluride, the Calgary Underground Audience Choice Honorable Mention, and the SIMA Lens to Action Jury Award.  Vessel is available on Netflix streaming in 30 countries, and across international video-on-demand platforms.



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, Mary Wohlford Foundation, Hope Foundation, NYSCA, Fledgling Fund, E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, Puffin Foundation, Mama Cash, Harnisch Foundation, Ipas, Grant Me the Wisdom Foundation, Diane and Adam Max, Lambrecht Family Foundation, Rosenthal Family Foundation, Dobkin Family Foundation, Compton Foundation, Neda Nobari Foundation, over 150 individual donors, an army of fabulous volunteers, and the fiscal sponsorship of Women Make Movies.

...Thank you!




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 generated 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



Do you believe the most fundamental human right is the right to control your own body? Do you believe no one should be able to make decisions about what a woman does with her body except for her?

Then get on board!

Sign up to join Vessel’s network of advocates fighting to protect women’s access to reproductive health care. We’ll let you know the most urgent moments and ways to make your voice heard for women’s reproductive rights in your community, how you can help us spread the word about this film to your friends and family, and how you can participate in Vessel actions wherever you are.

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Community Screenings



Upcoming screenings

Date Venue
Jul 12 2:00 PM London, UK Guardian Live - Rio Cinema Buy Tickets
Jul 14 6:30 PM Honolulu, HI The Arts at Mark's Garage
Jul 15 8:00 PM Wellfleet, MA Wellfleet Public Library
Jul 19 6:00 PM Cherry Hills, NJ Cherry Hill Women's Center
Jul 29 6:30 PM Wellington, New Zealand Concerned Citizens Collective
Aug 1 2:00 PM Largo, FL Oaklefe Conference Center
Aug 19 4:00 PM Sydney, Australia Women's Health NSW State Wide Conference
Aug 19 5:30 PM Vallejo, CA Touro University California
Aug 26 7:00 PM San Diego, CA Women's Museum of California at San Diego
Sep 2 8:00 PM Amsterdam, Netherlands Mama Cash Office
Sep 16 7:30 PM Lexington, VA Stackhouse Theater, Elrod Commons
Sep 16 8:00 PM Amsterdam, Netherlands Mama Cash Office
Oct 3 8:00 PM Zagreb, Croatia Dokukino KIC
Oct 22 7:00 PM Brunswick, ME Frontier Cinema
Oct 31 8:00 PM Zürich, Switzerland TBD
Nov 20 7:00 PM Devon, PA Main Line Unitarian Church
Apr 14 6:00 PM Louisville, KY First Unitarian Church



Nonprofits, student groups, activists and educators can sponsor local screenings to broaden the film's reach. To host a local screening, you contribute a modest screening fee and, in return, we give you:

  • The Vessel DVD
  • The Public Performance Rights for Vessel
  • Action and Discussion Materials
  • Digital Promotional Tools

...And hands-on support from our community screenings team!

Fill in our brief request form to indicate your interest, or email We look forward to responding within 1-2 business days with instructions on how to get started!


To date, over 175 screenings of Vessel have been booked across the world!

Vessel map

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General Inquiries:

World Sales:
Philippa Kowarsky | Cinephil | +972 3 566 4129  |

Kayla Keller | Fitzgibbon Media | 281.682.6212  |

Community Screenings and Filmmaker Appearances:
Caitlin Boyle | Film Sprout | 347.682.2483  |

North American Sales: 
Christina Yugai | FilmBuff | 212.463.6403 |


Photos by Diana Whitten and Cedric Zoenen
Poster art by Empty the Sunrise