Vessel: Past Land, Past Law, Past Permission


June 1, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a reader:

Revolution Books Chicago recently screened the film Vessel and in light of the ongoing war on women’s right to control their reproduction, I highly recommend screening and discussing it, right now!

This documentary takes you on board as Women on Waves take to the high seas to bring women the knowledge and tools to help them exercise this “most basic right” to control when and if they have children. The project started as the brainchild of a Dutch doctor who was appalled by the situation women faced in countries where (unlike the Netherlands) abortion is illegal. She applied her experience on a Greenpeace ship to organize a crew of (mainly) women to outfit an onboard clinic to provide medical abortions to women on the high seas. A medical abortion is a safe non-surgical abortion in which drugs (misoprostol) are used to abort. The film itself explains the science and availability of the pills that are needed to safely medically abort.

Ships have always been symbols of male freedom, but here it is women at the helm, reaching out to women everywhere, with men often pitching in. You see for yourself the worldwide reality of patriarchy as anti-abortion crowds are organized to intimidate and prevent the ship from entering or docking at ports, and even prime ministers take to the airwaves to threaten the ship. We also hear directly from women in country after country, in Europe and Africa and South America, how they attempt to abort using unsafe, often deadly, methods when science is suppressed and abortion outlawed.

In every country they visit, the Women on Waves connect with local women and men to teach, organize, and publicly challenge the patriarchal status quo with courage and humor, leaving behind grassroots organizations that in turn reach out to women in other countries. Despite winning many awards (including a Special Jury Award for Political Courage at SXSW Film Festival), this high-quality film has gotten almost no distribution in the U.S.

At our discussion, many questions were raised about whether abortion is a necessary evil or a positive right of women to determine their own future. Is a fetus in fact a baby? We walked through the science using the centerfold from Revolution newspaper “A Fetus Is Not a Baby,” so be sure to have that on hand for your screening.

Stop Patriarchy is calling for nationwide actions on July 1, when even more draconian restrictions on abortion access go into effect: “These unprecedented attacks on abortion rights, whether they come down in Kansas, Ohio, Tennessee or wherever, are attacks on ALL WOMEN. None of these laws have anything to do with ‘life.’ They are about slamming women back to the Dark Ages, reducing them to mere breeders.” The film Vessel brings all of that to life, dramatically and powerfully, and it shows what courage and standing up for principle can accomplish. We need more of both!



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"The film brings you up close inside Cornel West's and Bob Avakian's dialogue: the passion, the audacity, the science, the morality, the revolutionary substance. Two courageous voices modeling a morality that refuses to accept injustice – pouring heart and soul into standing together challenging all of us to fight for a world worthy of humanity."

Andy Zee,
co-director of the film


BA Speaks

"No more generations of our youth, here and all around the world, whose life is over, whose fate has been sealed, who have been condemned to an early death or a life of misery and brutality, whom the system has destined for oppression and oblivion even before they are born. I say no more of that."

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