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Women’s Health Week at Vanderbilt – Day One: Women on Waves

October 26, 2009

October 25-31 is Women’s Health Week at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, and a series of lectures have been planned to raise awareness on a variety of women’s health topics.

Today I had the pleasure of attending the lecture by Diana Whitten, filmmaker, whose current project is a film called “Vessel” which documents the work of the Women on Waves project. I was passingly familiar with Women on Waves before today, a project in which a ship chartered in The Netherlands (where abortion is legal) travels to countries where abortion is illegal and takes women out into international waters to receive medication abortions. In this way, the restrictive laws of those countries are circumvented to provide abortion access, as the law of the ship’s charter nation takes effect.

What I didn’t know, though, was about the educational work Women on Waves does in the course of those visits, the spreading of information – such as the number for a hotline for women to get information on and access to medical abortion. The video snippets Whitten shared made clear that there is also a bit of a rabble-rousing advocacy component that I can’t help appreciating. 🙂

Whitten made some compelling points about this kind of legal maneuvering, posing other possibilities for activists to think about such as whether abortion access can be provided via embassies or on Reservations, and how intracontinental waterways might be utilized to provide access from one state to another.

Some footage from “Vessel” is available online – I got a huge kick out of this video of the ship’s arrival in Valencia, Spain. Donations are needed to complete the film, so if you’re able, you can find information on how to do that here. Finally, there’s a blog for the project at

Via Whitten’s presentation, I also learned about women on web, which helps women in countries where there are no safe abortion services gain access to medical abortion.

There is a blog set up for the events at Unfortunately, I’m going to have to miss tomorrow’s talk from Dr. Stephanie Bailey, Chief of Public Health Practice for the CDC, speaking on the state of women’s health in the United States. Wednesday will feature Meharry and Vanderbilt physicians speaking on the 2009 Tennessee Women’s Health Report Card, and Thursday will have Beth Huff speaking on reducing cervical cancer deaths in Tennessee. Reservations are needed via email; details are available at

4 Comments leave one →
  1. MomTFH permalink
    October 26, 2009 6:16 pm

    Wow, I would have loved to have seen that presentation. Sounds like a great line up all week!

    • October 27, 2009 6:10 pm

      It was great! They have done a great job organizing, I’ve been reenergized by hearing about this project, their day of service, etc.

  2. June 26, 2010 8:33 am

    thanks for your article about women on waves


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