Drone technology is no stranger to controversy, but even so, the latest announcement from Dutch activist group Women on Waves is bound to generate a torrent of heated debate.
The pro-choice campaigners are preparing to fly an ‘Abortion Drone’ carrying a payload of abortion pills from Germany into neighbouring Poland, one of the few European countries where abortions remain illegal.
The project, which is a collaborative effort with a number of other European pro-choice organisations, is intended as a protest action to “mark the different reality for Polish women to [access] safe abortion services compared to other women in Europe.”
The Abortion Drone is set to take off this weekend, starting its journey in Frankfurt at 11am Saturday (GMT+2), and will fly to an as-yet-undisclosed location within Poland where it will land to deliver its supplies.
Women on Waves is playing it cagey with the Abortion Drone’s specific destination, presumably in a bid to minimise potential interruption from any Polish or German authorities who may seek to interfere with the passage of flight.
The activists are nonetheless confident that they’re not breaking any laws with their intended action, stating: “As the Abortion drone weighs less than 5 kg, is not used for any commercial purposes, will stay within the sight of the person flying it and does not fly in controlled airspace, no authorisation is required under Polish or German law.”
“We want to create awareness about women’s right to a safe abortion,” Rebecca Gomperts, the group’s founder, said. “The drone is another way to use the different laws in different countries in order to draw attention to the social injustice that women who are living in places where abortion is illegal are subject to.”
“In Poland, even women who could have an abortion under Polish law are often denied it because Catholic hospitals don’t help them, even if their life is in danger. Rich people can go to Germany or the UK to have abortions, but it’s the women who don’t have the means or access to information who are suffering,” says Gomperts.
The Women on Waves announcement has inevitably created a considerable amount of controversy, with Nadia Khomami from The Guardian reporting that pro-life, anti-abortion groups are even planning to attempt to shoot the drone out of the sky if they can.
“It’s not easy to shoot down a drone and fortunately guns are not that easy to get in Europe,” Gomperts said. “But it’s problematic because it’s a very aggressive strategy that’s intended to make people afraid. And it’s nonsense because it will not stop women from needing an abortion.”