Canadian Catholic Bishop Unhappy With Amnesty International Abortion Position

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

Canadian Catholic Bishop Unhappy With Amnesty International Abortion Position Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
June 9, 2006

Vancouver, Canada ( — A leading Canadian bishop in the Catholic church is unhappy with Amnesty International’s quest to change it position on abortion from one of neutrality to one in which it considers abortion a fundamental human right. The response comes after AI’s Canadian branch approved abortion in limited circumstances.

Last month, the Canadian affiliate met in Winnipeg 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 founder of Amnesty International was Peter Beneson, a Catholic layman. However, the group may begin losing many of its Catholic members if its move ahead with changing its position to favor abortion.

Most Rev. Raymond Roussin, the Catholic bishop of Vancouver, told the CanWest News Service he regretted that AI was moving in the direction of supporting abortion.

"If Amnesty International moves in such a direction, then the ultimate tragic irony results," he said.

Roussin explained that endorsing abortion would have "a world-wide organization which has done such a good job at standing in solidarity with and helping to protect individual and human communities whose human rights are under attack is moving against those who are arguably the most innocent and defenseless victims — the unborn infants of the world.’

"I can only pray and hope that [they] will rethink such a drastic and sad proposed decision, which would to my mind cut the heart out of the purpose of Amnesty International," he told CanWest.

Meanwhile, Bishop Fred Henry of Calgary has already stopped any official church donations to Amnesty over its abortion position, CanWest reported.

Cheryl Hotchkiss, a spokeswoman for Amnesty Canada, admitted her organization is getting hit with complaints from AI members and others who are "concerned about their continuing involvement with Amnesty if we proceed."

Still, Canadian secretary-general Alex Neve told the Toronto Star after the vote in May that "The majority favored Amnesty going in that direction [in favor of abortion]" although he indicated that a large number of Canadian AI officials opposed favoring abortion in all cases.

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, said.

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.

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.

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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