Canada Catholic Bishops Warn Amnesty International Not to Support Abortion

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 21, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Canada Catholic Bishops Warn Amnesty International Not to Support Abortion Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
July 21, 2006

Ottawa, Canada ( — Adding their voice to an international debate over abortion, Canada’s Catholic bishops are warning human rights group Amnesty International not to alter its neutral position and adopt a policy that supports abortion. The group plans an international vote next year on the issue.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops released a statement saying it would be "most regrettable if Amnesty International were to adopt a position promoting access to abortion."

"Such a change in policy would be considered by the Catholic Bishops of Canada to be a step backwards for an organization that has done such outstanding work in defending human life and the rights of the most vulnerable," the statement said.

Echoing concerns from Catholics in other nations, the bishops said AI’s taking a pro-abortion position would "make it difficult for Catholics to continue supporting the work of" the group.

The teachings of the Catholic Church have "clearly and consistently affirmed" that "the purposeful destruction of the human embryo is immoral," the statement says.

In May, the Canadian AI 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.

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."

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.

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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