“When they put their hands out like scales – Women on Waves”. On 11 June 2001, Women on Waves (W.o.W.) set sail from the Netherlands for Ireland, a country with the most restrictive abortion law in Europe.
Five days later, over 300 women had called the ship's hotline. Women who had been raped, schoolgirls, mothers who could not pay for childcare or a journey to England, political refugees who did not have travel documents and many more. W.o.W. counselled women with unwanted pregnancies, did pregnancy tests, ultrasound scans to establish pregnancy dates and provided information about and distributed contraceptives.
Today Women on Waves also operates as Women on Web, distributing the abortion pill to women in countries like Ireland and Northern Ireland where abortion is still almost impossible to access legally.
After being given access to the W.o.W. archives in March of this year, I began to work with these images, wishing to acknowledge the colonial and religious factors preventing access to abortion. Thanks to post-1861 images from the National Library of Ireland and the British Library, I was able to combine all three.