Amnesty International endorses abortion; move spurs backers to leave
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.