“Every 8 minutes somewhere in the world a woman dies needless as a result of illegal, unsafe abortion. In response to this violation of womens human rights and medical need, Women on Waves sails to countries where abortion is illegal. This is done at the invitation of local women’s organizations. With the use of a ship, early medical abortions can be provided safely, professionally and legally. Women on Waves aims to prevent unsafe abortions and empower women to exercise their human rights to physical and mental autonomy, by combining free healthcare services and sexual education with advocacy. Women on Waves is a non-profit organization.”
As featured in Did Someone Say Participate? (M. Miessen / S. Basar, MIT Press 2006), Women on Waves is a floating hospital profiting from legal loopholes of International Waters (aka. Free Seas): “Committed to facilitating the forbidden, Women on Waves bases many of its actions in the grey areas of the law [...]; it drives the group to be adaptive and opportunistic – like a hermit crab – to seek out and exploit new areas of ambiguity and potential freedom that appear and disappear as globalization undergoes its spasmodic development [...] In Poland we could not say that we did abortions publicly. But we could say that we are not allowed to say that we did abortions.”
Nomad hospitals have the power of transcending both international boundaries and national jurisdictions. International Waters can be a future territory to explore implemented modes of more participative politics. As Dr. Rebecca Gomperts states: “Women on Waves is not about abortion, it is about respect for people’s individual choices and self-determination.”
Floating hospitals are a sort of temporary settlements that avoid dealing with an ashore site of conflict. Instead, they take advantage of water as a means for action almost before being forbidden. In this framework of instant moves, not only can they play around with loopholes, but also with emergency contexts. In addition, nomad hospitals can solve the challenge of improving health in countries at war, surrounded by a lack of local infrastructure. Other volunteering initiatives, such as Catholic-based Mercy Ships, provide health care for the poor with their floating hospitals.