Amnesty In­ter­na­tional en­dorses abor­tion; move spurs back­ers to leave

The Washington Times Weekly - - World - By David R. Sands

A lead­ing Bri­tish bishop has re­signed his mem­ber­ship in Amnesty In­ter­na­tional and an Aus­tralian Je­suit col­lege said it will no longer work with the lead­ing hu­man rights group af­ter the or­ga­ni­za­tion two weeks ago of­fi­cially en­dorsed a new pol­icy sup­port­ing a wo­man’s right to an abor­tion in cer­tain cases.

More de­fec­tions could fol­low in the af­ter­math of the pol­icy shift, of­fi­cially adopted by del­e­gates from around the world at Amnesty In­ter­na­tional’s bi­en­nial meet­ing that con­cluded Aug. 17 in Mex­ico City.

Amnesty In­ter­na­tional del­e­gates, back­ing an ex­ec­u­tive board de­ci­sion an­nounced this spring, said the or­ga­ni­za­tion would “sup­port the de­crim­i­nal­iza­tion of abor­tion, to en­sure women have ac­cess to health care when com­pli­ca­tions arise from abor­tion and to de­fend women’s ac­cess to abor­tion [. . . ] when their health or hu­man rights are in dan­ger.”

Of­fi­cials of the Lon­don-based group, which was founded to aid po- lit­i­cal pris­on­ers of con­science, de­fend the change as part of a larger global drive against vi­o­lence, dis­crim­i­na­tion and abuse tar­get­ing women, in­clud­ing rape as a “weapon of war” in con­flicts such as the one in the west­ern Su­dan re­gion of Dar­fur.

“There are many hu­man rights is­sues in­volved in or­ga­nized sex­ual vi­o­lence tar­get­ing women,” said A. Wid­ney Brown, Amnesty’s se­nior di­rec­tor for in­ter­na­tional le­gal is­sues, in a tele­phone in­ter­view from New York.

She said the new pol­icy would not de­tract from Amnesty’s fo­cus on po­lit­i­cal re­pres­sion, but added, “We can’t as an or­ga­ni­za­tion look only at hu­man rights is­sues that im­pli­cate men.”

But the de­ci­sion has been sharply crit­i­cized by the Vat­i­can and pro-life groups. Rep. Christo­pher H. Smith, a New Jer­sey Repub­li­can and one of the Hill’s lead­ing voices on hu­man rights, told the Catholic News Ser­vice that a hu­man rights group that fa­vored le­gal­iz­ing abor­tion is “the ul­ti­mate oxy­moron.”

Car­di­nal Re­nato Martino, head of the Pon­tif­i­cal Coun­cil for Jus­tice and Peace, is­sued a state­ment in June call­ing on Catholic or­ga­ni­za­tions and in­di­vid­u­als to stop pro­vid­ing fi­nan­cial sup­port for Amnesty In­ter­na­tional be­cause of the abor­tion pol­icy.

“If, in fact, Amnesty In­ter­na­tional per­sists in this course of ac­tions, in­di­vid­u­als and Catholic or­ga­ni­za­tions must with­draw their sup­port, be­cause, in de­cid­ing to pro­mote abor­tion rights, AI has be­trayed its mis­sion,” the car­di­nal said.

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