Catholic Bishops Press Amnesty International on Changing Abortion View

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 23, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 23
, 2006

Washington, DC ( — During a press conference earlier this week, a representative of the nation’s Catholic bishops called on Amnesty International to keep its neutral position on abortion. The human rights watchdog is considering supporting abortion in some cases and lobbying other nations to change their laws on abortion.

Deirdre McQuade, of the pro-life office of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, spoke during the press conference, which also featured Reps. Chris Smith of New Jersey and Dan Lungren of California and the head of Democrats for Life.

“Amnesty has traditionally served as a courageous voice for the voiceless and ignored populations,” McQuade said in a statement obtained. “It should not now undermine its own mission by, in essence, siding against millions of voiceless human beings."

"The right to life itself is fundamental. It is the precondition of all other human rights, and its integrity depends on being acknowledged for every member of the human family regardless of race, age, gender, condition, or stage of development," McQuade added.

McQuade noted that USCCB has worked with Amnesty International on common efforts as diverse as seeking to end the use of the death penalty in the United States, anti-apartheid advocacy in South Africa and opposition to government-sanctioned death squads in Central America.

Those common ground campaigns may be jeopardized if Amnesty International changed its position to promote abortion.

“If Amnesty International were to assert abortion as a human right, it would inevitably create a rift with its Catholic members and alienate many other persons and organizations for whom the right to life is foundational in the struggle for justice,” she said.

Along with opposition to the proposed change from USCCB, Smith and 73 other members of Congress have urged Larry Cox, director of Amnesty International, to maintain the organization’s abortion neutral policy or take a position in favor of life.

Amnesty International responded to the letter by saying it is not looking into backing all abortions, but is considering supporting abortions in cases of sexual abuse such as rape or incest.

"AI is not debating whether women have the right to terminate pregnancies under any circumstances," the group said in a statement obtained.

Instead, the organization, which has two million members spread throughout 74 countries, is debating whether or not to advocate for better health care for women who have complications from botched abortions and whether to support legalizing abortions in cases of sexual abuse or a pregnancy’s risk to the mother’s life.

The human rights group also said it may pursue "the removal of criminal penalties for those who seek or provide abortions."

A final decision on whether AI will retain its neutral position could be made at Amnesty International’s next international meeting that will be held in Mexico in August of 2007.

AI affiliates in Canada and England have voted in favor of Amnesty International supporting abortion. The British group wants the international organization to back all abortions while the Canadian affiliate said abortion should only be supported in limited cases such as rape or incest.

AI could adopt the pro-abortion position by a consensus or formal vote or send the discussion back to its affiliates for further consideration.

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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