Canada Amnesty International Group Backs Abortion, Pro-Life Orgs Upset

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 30, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Canada Amnesty International Group Backs Abortion, Pro-Life Orgs Upset Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
May 30, 2006

Winnipeg, Canada ( — The Canadian affiliate of the human rights watchdog group Amnesty International has joined its British and New Zealand counterparts in approving adding abortion to the list of human rights the organization supports. Pro-life groups are upset by the move, which leads up to an AI vote on Mexico next year.

Officials with the Canadian affiliate met in Winnipeg last week and endorsed a proposal calling on AI to favor lobbying to overturn pro-life laws against abortions in numerous countries around the world.

But, unlike the British and New Zealand affiliates, the Canadian Amnesty International voted to only support abortion in cases where the woman’s life is in danger or she is a victim of rape or incest.

"The majority favored Amnesty going in that direction," Canadian secretary-general Alex Neve told the Toronto Star. He indicated that a large number of Canadian AI officials opposed favoring abortion in all cases.

"People had a wide variety of opinions and there was no consensus. But there was a feeling that this approach was the best one," he said. Neve added that those favoring abortion said they didn’t think AI should have no view on the issue when it works with women’s issues around the globe.

"Obviously this is a very difficult issue, even in a social justice organization," Neve told the Star. "We have members with a variety of religious beliefs."

Pro-life groups blasted the decision.

"It is unbelievable that a group that concerns itself with human rights as its stated goal should not consider the rights of three million little Canadians killed since 1969," Mary Ellen Douglas, the national organizer of the Canadian Campaign Life Coalition, told the Star.

Douglas said that abortion doesn’t erase the pain of a woman’s rape and that "the trauma is not wiped out by killing the unborn child."

She indicated her group is worried that doctors and other medical professors will be forced to perform abortions in cases of rape or incest, even if they have moral or religious objections.

Amnesty International is slated to have a worldwide vote on the issue at its next global meeting in Mexico in 2007.

Neve said the more limited Canadian approach could be put forward as a compromise proposal and could win support at an international executive meeting in Portugal AI will have in July.

AI’s decision to consider whether or not to take a pro-abortion stance is upsetting human rights campaigners across the globe who say the right to life is the basic human right. Should AI promote abortion, pro-life advocates are concerned at the international effects the decision will have.

AI would likely begin filing lawsuits on behalf of women in nations where abortion is illegal, such as the recent lawsuit that legalized abortion in Columbia in cases of rape and incest or severe fetal handicaps.

"This kind of change will put the lives of unborn children into the hands of one of the most powerful groups in the world," Austin Ruse of the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute has said. "They can throw the weight of the international legal community against the unborn."

Thanks to Bush administration officials, the United Nations has not ratified documents declaring abortion an international right and the president will likely work to prevent that as long as he is in office.

However, AI’s proposal says it will encourage NGOs who lobby at the UN to press for an international document saying abortion is a human right.

Currently, Amnesty International says it “takes no position on whether or not women have a right to choose to terminate unwanted pregnancies; there is no generally accepted right to abortion in international human rights law.”

TAKE ACTION: Tell Amnesty International that you don’t want it to become a pro-abortion organization fighting to make abortion legal worldwide. Go to to contact the group and express your opposition. Also, use the group’s web site to find your national affiliate and tell them you oppose the idea.

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