by Steven Ertelt
July 26, 2007
New York, NY (LifeNews.com) — Amnesty International upset millions of pro-life supporters months ago when it decided to take a pro-abortion position after decades of neutrality. Any decision on abortion was supposed to come at an AI leadership conference in August in Mexico City — but with the meeting on the horizon, a change of heart isn’t expected.
The biennial meeting of the world’s foremost human rights group begins August 11 but one of its leaders says its unlikely AI will backtrack on the abortion decision.
"I think it’s improbable," Kate Gilmore, AI’s deputy secretary general, told the Associated Press.
Amnesty International’s nine-member International Executive Committee adopted the pro-abortion position in April even though grassroots groups and members expected a vote next month on the policy position.
But Gilmore told AP she expects any poll would show strong support for abortion from the more than 70 national chapters that will attend the Mexico City conference.
Under the new policy, Amnesty International officially endorses abortion in cases of rape or incest and when the pregnancy threatens the life or health of the mother.
That position has drawn strong opposition from pro-life Catholics who have long supported the human rights group.
Cardinal Renato Martino, a top Vatican official, called for a boycott of the group in June and said that Catholics and Catholic groups should no longer donate to it.
"If in fact Amnesty International persists in this course of action, individuals and Catholic organizations must withdraw their support," Cardinal Martino said.
Bishop William Skylstad, president of U.S. Catholic bishops’ conference, echoed the call for a boycott earlier this month and said the decision to endorse abortion "undermines Amnesty’s long-standing moral credibility, diverts its mission, divides its own members (many of whom are Catholic or defend the rights of unborn children), and jeopardizes Amnesty’s support by people in many nations, cultures and religion."
Though AI took the position to respond to violence against women, Skylstad said it simply subjects women to more violence.
"A far more compassionate response is to provide support and services for pregnant women, advance their educational and economic standing in society, and resist all forms of violence and stigmatization against them," he added.
Gilmore told AP she’s not surprised by the outpouring of opposition but defended the group’s decision to back abortion.
"We searched our hearts and minds and stayed true to human rights and were not swayed by any other issue. … We knew some people would find our position unacceptable," she said.
She also indicated that Amnesty International would not lead efforts to topple pro-life laws in nations like Ireland. That has been a concern of pro-life advocates since AI endorsed abortion.
Gilmore added that AI would most likely promote abortion in embattled regions like Darfur, Sudan. The group would also lobby nations, such as those in Latin America, that limit abortions in cases when the pregnancy threatens the life of the mother.
A Catholic layman, Peter Benenson, founded Amnesty International in 1961.