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Pragmatism and Technological Activism

December 21, 2010

Women on Waves is a Dutch Pro-Choice organization which sails to countries with illegal abortion and takes local women into international waters to provide non-surgical abortions. This is a special-purpose form of seasteading – using the freedom of international waters to give people what they want.

Apparently, WoW also runs into the same problems of credibility among those committed to more conventional forms of activism:

In several years of quiet fund-raising for Women on Waves, including a three-week visit to the United States last year, [WoW founder Rebecca] Gomperts met with mixed results. Among American abortion rights leaders, many of whom practice a policy-oriented form of activism, she received a round of cautious endorsement but little in the way of financial help. ”I think some people probably thought she was crazy,” says Julie Kay, an American lawyer specializing in reproductive rights who met with Gomperts in Dublin last December. ”I know when I first heard about her, I thought: Abortions at sea? Who is this woman? Is she some sort of cowboy doctor?”

And here’s Gomperts herself:

It is difficult to find a steady stream of donors given the radicalism of WOW. Offering women the abortion pill in countries where the procedure is illegal, from a ship under Dutch flag, anchored in international waters, taking advantage of a legal loophole, is more confrontational than a traditional pro-choice poster campaign. But the effectiveness of one of our campaigns is much greater than a traditional advocacy campaign. When we embark on a campaign, the awareness created through the press and protests around illegal abortions makes a huge impact on the issue.

So, just as we have beltway libertarians committed to easy but ineffective forms of policy activism treating unorthodox but promising forms of activism as crazy, we have beltway feminists committed to easy but ineffective forms of policy activism treating unorthodox but promising forms of activism as crazy.

It’s good to know we’re not alone, I guess.

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