The time has come for Irish pro-life advocates to question whether they can continue to support Amnesty Ireland.
Three weeks ago, Colm O’Gorman, the Executive Director of Amnesty Ireland, travelled to El Salvador as part of Amnesty’s “My Body, My Rights” campaign. When it comes to abortion, this campaign’s slogan “It’s your body. Know your rights” completely ignores the reality that the unborn child isn’t part of his/her mother’s body. He or she has separate organs and limbs, even a different blood type on occasion. But there is no acknowledgement of the humanity of this vulnerable human being in Amnesty’s campaign for decriminalization.
More and more, the Irish branch is becoming entrenched in the campaign to further widen Ireland’s abortion laws.
When the appalling Protection of Human Life During Pregnancy Act was going through the Irish Houses of Parliament last year, one might have expected Amnesty Ireland to demand full accountability from the Government, requiring them to produce evidence to show that abortion treats suicidal ideation (the most controversial aspect of the Act was a clause allowing abortion for the full nine months of pregnancy where the woman in question is suffering from suicidal ideation). No such evidence was produced, because there is no evidence anywhere in the world to show that abortion is a treatment for suicidal feelings – and yet Amnesty Ireland did not join the ranks of those opposing the implementation of the Act on these grounds.
In late September 2014, Colm O’Gorman was one of the participants in a pro-choice conference called “Building a Coalition to Repeal the 8thAmendment.” As readers of LifeNews will be aware, pro-choice campaigners are currently trying to raise interest in a campaign to hold a referendum that would allow the Irish public to decide whether or not they want to retain a provision which guarantees protection for the life of the unborn child in the Irish Constitution. Removal of the provision would remove any protection for the unborn in the Constitution. At the September conference, Colm O’Gorman told the audience that Amnesty Ireland required the Irish Government to bring its abortion law in line with “international human rights law”. This, he said, would involve the decriminalization of abortion in the case of rape, incest or fatal foetal abnormality.
There was no mention or acknowledgement of the fact that the original wording of the Eighth Amendment, as inserted by a majority of the Irish electorate in 1983, included the clause “…with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother”. That phrasing gave Ireland the unique distinction of ensuring that doctors in Ireland had a duty of care towards both mother and unborn child. In the years since 1983, this served Ireland well as its maternal mortality rate was among the lowest in the world, far lower than that recorded in countries where abortion was freely available. Women in Ireland were always entitled to whatever medical treatment they needed while pregnant – a fact ignored and misrepresented in 2013 when the Irish Government insisted on introducing abortion legislation.
But the Irish branch of Amnesty, and indeed, the international organization, seems to be missing the point. When it talks about bringing pressure to bear on the Irish Government to fall in line with “international human rights law”, perhaps a little more thought should be given to whether that law actually protects the rights of human beings. Isn’t that what Amnesty is supposed to do – act as an international watchdog, check to see if the laws that are being proposed actually do what they claim to do?
If “international human rights law” allows one human being to have their life ended at the decision of another, then there’s something wrong with the law that allows such a flagrant abuse of the right to life. After all, there is no “right to abortion” in international human rights law – why is Amnesty acting as if it exists?
There is, however, a right to life. Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights confirms that “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”
It is this life-affirming declaration which should be the backbone of Amnesty’s work. Without the right to life, all other rights are meaningless. It’s high time that Amnesty International, and all of its national affiliates, stopped whitewashing the issue of abortion is such a disrespectful way, airbrushing the unborn child out of the discussion completely and ignoring the voices of women and girls who say that their own lives have been damaged by abortion.
In Ireland, pro-life supporters have no option but to part ways with Amnesty. In campaigning for abortion, it has betrayed not just the right to life, but also the vision of one of its founders, Nobel Laureate Sean MacBride, who supported the Eighth Amendment to the Irish Constitution. By a cruel irony, Amnesty Ireland promotes its pro-choice stance from its head office which is named “Sean MacBride House”.
What a tragedy that the great aspirations of those who founded Amnesty have been besmirched by the wordplay and hypocrisy of current pro-choice arguments, which continue to set one group of human beings over another. Amnesty’s good work in other areas will ultimately be forever tarnished by its ongoing failure to defend the right to life of the most vulnerable, voiceless human beings among us.