by Steven Ertelt
August 13, 2007
Mexico City, Mexico (LifeNews.com) — This week was supposed to have been the deciding week for Amnesty International to determine if the human rights group would officially endorse abortion. AI leaders decided in April to back abortion in cases when women are victims of sexual abuse and the group will likely ratify that decision this week.
Amnesty International’s nine-member International Executive Committee adopted the pro-abortion position without a vote from all of its national affiliates worldwide.
The biennial meeting of the world’s foremost human rights group began Saturday but Kate Gilmore, AI’s deputy secretary general, thinks the pro-abortion position will be upheld.
Should Amnesty International reaffirm its pro-abortion policy, which came after decades of neutrality on abortion, Catholic Church officials will likely step up a boycott they announced this summer.
Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, promised Catholics worldwide would boycott the human rights group if it doesn’t reverse the position at an international conference in Mexico City this week.
"If in fact Amnesty International persists in this course of action, individuals and Catholic organizations must withdraw their support because, in deciding to promote abortion rights, Amnesty International has betrayed its mission," he said.
Such a decision could hit AI financially as it founders and major backers are predominantly Catholic.
Catholic representatives of AI affiliates around the globe are expected to call for a reversal of the group’s pro-abortion position, but officials from the organization have said they don’t think any attempt to overturn it will be successful.
AI officials say the pro-abortion policy doesn’t endorse all abortions but rather focuses on women who are victims of violence in regions like Darfur.
Amnesty’s Deputy General Secretary, Kate Gilmore, told the Independent newspaper that the group is not pro-abortion as pro-life advocates have said.
"Amnesty International’s position is not for abortion as a right but for women’s human rights to be free of fear, threat and coercion as they manage all consequences of rape and other grave human rights violations," she said.
"Amnesty International stands alongside the victims and survivors of human rights violations. Our policy reflects our obligation of solidarity as a human rights movement with, for example, the rape survivor in Darfur who, because she is left pregnant as a result of the enemy, is further ostracized by her community," she added.
However, Vatican officials say Amnesty International is guilty of double standards because it opposes the death penalty but favors abortion.
Bishop William Skylstad, president of U.S. Catholic bishops’ conference, echoed the call for a boycott in July.
He 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 explained 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.