“Ours is a movement dedicated to upholding human rights, not specific theologies.”

Even before it met in Mexico at the start of August, the International Council of Amnesty was being urged, by representatives of the Catholic Church, to reverse their Executive Council’s recommendations on sexual and reproductive rights. Instead the International Council affirmed those recommendations, as noted in this press release – “Amnesty International committed itself to strengthening the organization’s work on the prevention of unwanted pregnancies and other factors contributing to women’s recourse to abortion and affirmed the organization’s policy on selected aspects on abortion (to support the decriminalisation of abortion, to ensure women have access to health care when complications arise from abortion and to defend women’s access to abortion, within reasonable gestational limits, when their health or human rights are in danger), emphasizing that women and men must exercise their sexual and reproductive rights free from coercion, discrimination and violence.” More details here. Subsequently the President of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace is reported to have said that there should be “no more Catholic financing of Amnesty International” and, more generally, urged Catholic organisations worldwide to withdraw their support. From the detail of Amnesty International’s affirmation of policy

Amnesty International supports women in claiming their rights. The lived experience of girls and women including of those with whom we work directly, shows how central are sexual and reproductive rights to their freedoms including their right to be free from gender-based violence and as a remedy where they have been subjected to such violence:

Forced and child marriage is a violation of girls’ and women’s sexual and reproductive rights.

Denying women access to reproductive health services is a violation of their reproductive rights. Denying them access to lifesaving obstetric care is a violation of their right to life and a form of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

Forced abortions or sterilizations carried out by family planning officials or others acting in an official capacity violate reproductive rights and are grave violations of physical and mental integrity amounting to torture.

Obstructing rape survivors’ access to legal abortion services is a violation of their sexual and reproductive rights.

Women must have access to safe and legal abortion services in cases of unwanted pregnancy as a result of rape, sexual assault or incest.

Imprisonment or other criminal sanctions for seeking or having an abortion is a violation of women’s reproductive rights.

Women must have access to safe and legal abortion services where continuation of pregnancy poses a risk to their life or grave risk to their health.

Individuals have the right to seek, receive and impart information in relation to sexuality and reproduction without unreasonable restrictions. They have the right to access to information and services regarding sexual and reproductive health, including in relation to prevention of sexually transmitted infections.

Women have the right to not be denied maternal health care, which should be accessible, affordable, adequate and of sufficiently high quality, taking into account their cultural needs. They have the right to access health care without discrimination.

The decision by Amnesty to affirm the policy comes after a two-year world-wide consultation within the organisation and they responded to the criticism here.

“We are a movement to protect citizens including the believer but we do not impose beliefs. Ours is a movement dedicated to upholding human rights, not specific theologies. Our purpose invokes the law and the state, not God. It means that sometimes the secular framework of human rights that Amnesty International upholds will converge neatly with the standpoints of certain faith based communities; sometimes it will not.”

But perhaps the most interesting comparison of responses comes from Amnesty Italy, as reported here

Amnesty Italy said in a statement in April that it had decided to involve itself in issues relating to abortion “to the extent that they are directly linked to its actions for the right to health and against violence against women.”

and Amnesty International’s Irish section, as noted by this Irish Times report [subs req]

Noeleen Hartigan, Amnesty International Ireland’s programmes director, has confirmed the Irish branch has effectively opted out of the controversial new policy, which seeks to address the lack of abortion availability, especially following mass rapes and ethnic cleansing.

Whilst the decidedly anti-choice website LifeStyle.net has additional quotes

Hartigan explained the actual situation to LifeSiteNews.com, saying, “The International Secretariat will, in consultation with national sections, develop campaigning actions to support women’s sexual and reproductive rights, including where relevant, action on selected aspects of abortion. At this point, when campaigning actions are to be implemented, all national sections of Amnesty International will decide which of these are relevant and appropriate to undertake at the domestic level.”

She continued, “In the Irish Section we will not be campaigning on the issue as it is not something our membership wish to work on. Amnesty International is one movement,” she further explained. It is diverse in its membership throughout the world and within Ireland.”

While not actively campaigning on abortion, Amnesty Ireland has not severed itself from the “one movement” Amnesty International and the abortion policy that it promotes. As Amnesty’s deputy secretary-general Kate Gilmore said, quoted by Kaiser Network, “No one country can step away from the decisions of the organization as a whole.” She added, “In Ireland’s case, it’s a matter of promoting other campaigns and finding areas that Ireland can work to its best strengths.”

At the start of this week Michael Evans, the RC bishop of East Anglia, and an active member for 31-years, resigned from Amnesty – which prompted this response from Amnesty spokesman Philippe Hensmans, “Amnesty is not a Catholic organization, and we can understand that the bishop, being part of the hierarchy of the church, can take no other position.”

Last night, Newsnight, hosted a debate between the two [RealPlayer file 34 mins in] where the focus was on tip-toeing through the minefield of competing rights.. something that our local representatives have still to do..

, , , , ,

  • Okay. The religious organisation headed by a former member of the Nazi Youth and whose previous leader gave a Papal knighthood to Kurt Waldheim have decided to instruct their members to pull out of Amnesty. Hypocritical much?

    On the position taken by the Irish section, there was a big consultation of Amnesty Ireland’s membership over the last couple of years and the ‘opt out of work’ position was the one the membership greatly preferred.

  • lib2016

    As a humanist I have to admit that supporting one of the established religions is not an necessary qualification for getting things wrong. The School of the Americas is run by an entirely different bunch of lunatics, as were the Russian gulags.

    That said let´s try and stick to the thread for once. Abortion is an extrmely emotive subject and one that needs a lot of toleration if it is to be tackled at all.

    For myself, as a middleaged man I definitely don´t feel qualified to determine what a woman should do with her own body. It seems to me a pity that so many others feel qualified to do so.

    The more so as the inevitable result of prohibition is a huge growth in backstreet abortions with all the unhappiness and criminalisation of idealists and/or innocents that will entail.

  • circles

    The catholic church do make me laugh. Not only do they want to control women, they want to control anybody who wants put choice in womens hands. Fair play to AI for this and more power to them.

    Franks remark about Ratzingers past though was equally out of order. Man not ball and based on a headline from The Sun – oh dear what is slugger coming to? (By the way Frank I think you meant the Hitler Youth)

  • Token Dissent

    I am in agreement with lib2016. It always strikes me as extremely presumptuous of men to dictate from women should do with their bodies.

    The Newsnight debate focused on Darfur and the systematic use of rape as a weapon of war. That Christian Churches would deny these women – who have suffered horror beyond comprehension – the option of a legal abortion, highlights the inhumanity that blind doctrinal observation leads to.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    lib2016: “As a humanist I have to admit that supporting one of the established religions is not an necessary qualification for getting things wrong. The School of the Americas is run by an entirely different bunch of lunatics, as were the Russian gulags.”

    Not to mention the British concentration camps in South Africa, the killing fields of Cambodia, et al and ad nauseum. I’m sure we could find a few UDA and IRA atrocities — small taters compared to the above, but possibly the level best the organizations in question could (mis)manage.

    lib2016: “For myself, as a middleaged man I definitely don´t feel qualified to determine what a woman should do with her own body. It seems to me a pity that so many others feel qualified to do so. ”

    Ah, the joys of “liberal tolerance,” an oxymoron right up there with “friendly fire” and “military intelligence.”

    Short form, not every group is going to agree with every stance. Abortion, for good or for ill, is a deal-breaker for the Catholic Church. Last I checked, holding different beliefs are still a body’s, individual or corporate, right. AI is not entitled to be funded by the Catholic Church and its unreasonable for the Catholic Church to be expected to fund a group who has chosen a policy that abrogates the Church’s beliefs.

    lib2016: “The more so as the inevitable result of prohibition is a huge growth in backstreet abortions with all the unhappiness and criminalisation of idealists and/or innocents that will entail. ”

    Ah, the inevitable retreat to the coat hanger scare tactic. It’d be amusing, if it weren’t so trite.

    Frankly, I find the Irish gov’t’s intrusion into abortion far more disturbing that the Catholic Church’s position. Only one of these two entities has the legal right to prevent a body from simply going somewhere where the procedure is legal.

    It would be far more useful to get the government righted than to wheeze about the church.

  • Comrade Stalin

    AI is not entitled to be funded by the Catholic Church and its unreasonable for the Catholic Church to be expected to fund a group who has chosen a policy that abrogates the Church’s beliefs.

    True indeed.

    But what about an obvious corrollary. Should I refuse to fund Trocaire because I don’t believe in the virgin birth ?

  • George

    Comrade,
    Trócaire don’t have a policy regarding the virgin birth so your example isn’t a corollary. It does not logically follow that you shouldn’t fund Trócaire in its efforts to support long-term development projects overseas and to provide relief during emergencies simply because the organisers believe in the virgin birth.

    It would be different if Trócaire were promoting virgin birth with your donation.

    However, the Catholic Church’s reaction to the AI decision actively support abortion is an obvious corollary of their beliefs.

    Equally, AI’s decision to actively support abortion in certain circumstances is an obvious corollary of their beliefs regarding human rights.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Trócaire don’t have a policy regarding the virgin birth so your example isn’t a corollary.

    From Wikipedia :

    Trócaire is the name of the overseas development agency of the Catholic Church in Ireland. The Irish word means ‘Compassion’ in English. Trócaire was set up in 1973 by the Irish Catholic Bishops.

    It does not logically follow that you shouldn’t fund Trócaire in its efforts to support long-term development projects overseas and to provide relief during emergencies simply because the organisers believe in the virgin birth.

    I don’t think it follows that the Catholic church should use the abortion issue to withdraw funding from Amnesty, although that is obviously their right.

    It would be different if Trócaire were promoting virgin birth with your donation.

    Trocaire isn’t an independent organization, so I don’t think there’s a clear limitation in terms of what they might be promoting. I’m too cynical to believe that the church is being entirely selfless by involving itself in international development.

  • Rory

    On a purely practical level I wonder what steps Amnesty has in place to ensure safe, medically correct abortions and the level of necessary physical and pyschological post-abortion care to those women who “choose” this option in, for example, a region fraught with military, political and geographical hazards such as Darfur.

    And what steps have Amnesty put in place to aid those women who do not “choose” abortion to maintain their own pre and post-natal health and that of the resulting child?

    I anticipate that the answer to both questions would be the same as mine if I were asked, which is “none whatsover” to both questions.

    I however like Amnesty am happy to pontificate on the women’s rights in both set of circumstances and it does give me ever such a warm, fuzzy glow inside.

    But of course warm fuzzy glows butter no parsnips and I could be doing with a couple of major humanitarian awards. And a Nobel Peace Prize would come in handy.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Comrade Stalin: “But what about an obvious corrollary. Should I refuse to fund Trocaire because I don’t believe in the virgin birth ? ”

    No moral judgements were made in my piece, Joe.

    However, if you feel strongly about it, it is your *right* not to fund Trocaire on that basis.

    Comrade Stalin: “I don’t think it follows that the Catholic church should use the abortion issue to withdraw funding from Amnesty, although that is obviously their right. ”

    I think it is unreasonable to expect a body to fund a message that runs counter to their beliefs. Apparently, the Catholic Church concurs.

    Likewise, I suspect that it was less the Church looking for a reason to cease funding AI and more a matter of irreconcilable differences.

    Would that make this a divorce, I wonder?

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Rory: “On a purely practical level I wonder what steps Amnesty has in place to ensure safe, medically correct abortions and the level of necessary physical and pyschological post-abortion care to those women who “choose” this option in, for example, a region fraught with military, political and geographical hazards such as Darfur. ”

    On a purely practical level, I wonder if Amnesty realizes that the right to an abortion is likely the least of the human rights rights difficulties in that region…

  • George

    Comrade,
    I share your cynicism towards the Church but I am equally cynical of AI’s moral credentials and would be firmly in the Rory camp (Post 9) on this one.

  • joeCanuck

    I would have liked to comment but,since I don’t directly fund women’s health clinics, I guess I’m obliged to keep my opinion to myself.

  • As a long-time reader of (but never previously a contributor to) Slugger and as Amnesty’s Northern Ireland programme director, I thought that this was perhaps an appropriate occasion and discussion for me to join the fray.

    So, I’ll use my first words on Slugger to thank the contributors to this thread for the mostly straight bat with which they have played this hugely difficult and emotive issue.

    The discussion has been a pretty fair one and I simply want to correct or clarify a couple of matters.

    For the record, Amnesty doesn’t receive money from the Vatican or the Catholic Church, although many individual Catholics (and people of most other religions and none) are, of course, members or financial supporters.

    The vast bulk of our funding in this country and globally comes from these individual supporters and we thank them all and hope that their support will continue. We have very strict rules over any institutional giving to Amnesty, and for instance won’t accept any governmental funding for our human rights campaigning work.

    Financial freedom – powered by millions of membership subscriptions and small donations -means we are beholden to no powerful individual, institution, corporation or government and are free to stand up for victims of human rights violations – whoever the victim and whoever the violator – without fear or favour.

    That independence, along with the quality of our research and the commitment of our membership (4,000-strong and growing in Northern Ireland, 2 million and growing worldwide), has always underwritten our credibility as a defender of human rights, even when that has guaranteed our unpopularity in some quarters.

    On the subject of Darfur, which has been mentioned, let me assure contributors that Amnesty’s interest has been long-standing, comprehensive and ongoing.

    On a rainy December 10th, Human Rights Day, last year we held a vigil for Darfur on the steps of Belfast’s St Anne’s Cathedral, supported by the major development charities working in the field. This was part of an international Day for Darfur, co-ordinated by Amnesty in many countries worldwide. On that occasion, we were pleased to be joined by and have prayers said by the Dean of St Anne’s, Houston McKelvey and Dr Hugh Kennedy, his Catholic counterpart from St Peter’s.

    On Friday we will issue further research findings on Darfur in an attempt to generate a more urgent response from the international community to the ever-increasing human rights catastrophe there – for those who are genuinely interested, watch the press for details or visit us (or even join us) online.

  • Rory

    Well thank you, Patrick Corrigan, for telling us all how sweet and acceptable Amnesty is to many people. Would you now like to add anything to the matter under discussion?

    You might well get a rough ride on here, but you will get a fair hearing. And, I promise you, it’s nowhere near as bad as Darfur (apart from the lack of anything decent to drink).

  • I wonder…

    I would be interested to know what the religious breakdown is of AI. I suspexct somehow that many are disenchanted Catholics.

  • I wonder…

    “The catholic church do make me laugh. Not only do they want to control women, they want to control anybody who wants put choice in womens hands”

    Er..wasn’t it a Free Prebyterian church that had a rpoblem with men kissing men? Catholics have been doing that for centuries.

  • Dewi

    Rory – I think Patrick Corrigan did address the issues. On the funding issue :

    “For the record, Amnesty doesn’t receive money from the Vatican or the Catholic Church, although many individual Catholics (and people of most other religions and none) are, of course, members or financial supporters.”

    On the abortion issue Amnesty’s position has been made absolutely clear – what more is there to add ?

  • Pete Baker

    Thanks for commenting, Patrick.

    Your point about funding is well made, but there’s still the issue of the tug of conscience, the competing rights issue I mentioned, between the Catholic hierarchy and their members and Amnesty International.

    And will you comment on the opt-out, of campaigns they disagree with, by Amnesty Ireland? Is Amnesty UK intending to do the same? And what about the NI section?

  • Rory

    There is much to add on the issue of abortion, Dewi.

    The glib acceptance, for example, that women trapped as victims in the circumstances they choose to highlight may make a free choice when presented with an option of abortion or a failure of hope of caring for a child faced with privation, cruelty and starvation. As easy to argue that the women had a choice whether to submit to rape or die when the child was created.

    Even if clinical abortion were able to offered to women victims of war rape in safe, comfortable, loving conditions, which may be doubted, it would remain that, objectively, abortion is a gross act act of violence on the reproductive organism of the woman and a destruction of a living, viable human child within her. Amnesty’s trite easy acceptance of such a solution to a devestated woman’s needs adds to that violation.

    A Catholic could not, in good conscience support a campaign.

    Nor could I, because experience tells me that the next step would be be to demonise those women who refused abortion, denigrate them and their culture as backward and justify the intervention of “civilised” western forces for purposes of a more systematic rape of their land and economy (and sexual rape of women and children that would now be redesignated as economic choice).

  • Dewi

    Don’t dispute that right for debate Rory – and am sure that their approach does not fit well with Catholic theology.
    Point I was making was that Amnesty’s position was stated clearly. It is at variance with yours and that of the Catholic Church.

  • Again, thanks for comments in what is, obviously, a contentious but really important issue to discuss (perhaps especially in places like Northern Ireland where it has been so ‘off’ the agenda).

    So, please let me take the time to be as clear as possible about all this.

    Amnesty International’s policy on sexual and reproductive rights does not promote abortion as a universal right and we remain silent on the rights or wrongs of abortion.

    Our policy recognises 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. Amnesty’s policy aims to support the decriminalisation of abortion, to ensure women have access to health care when complications arise from abortion and to defend women’s access to abortion – within reasonable gestational limits -when their health or life are in danger.

    Rory’s statement (post 20) about demonising women who do not choose abortion in such situations is simply untrue, not to mention deeply unhelpful. It is perhaps worth noting that Amnesty has also committed itself to strengthening our work on the prevention of unwanted pregnancies and other factors contributing to women’s recourse to abortion.

    Let’s also be clear that Amnesty International’s position is consistent with international human rights and humanitarian law and was arrived at following extensive, two-year consultation with its membership. Let me assure you that there is nothing “glib” or “trite” (Rory, post 20) about the policy position we have come to after this long, hard consideration.

    Amnesty International has documented cases of sexual violence in armed conflict – such as in Darfur – that were devastating to women and lead to their being ostracised. This trauma and exclusion was exacerbated when the sexual violence (typically in the form of gang rape) resulted in an unwanted pregnancy. Women and girls who were raped, including by family members, in non-conflict situations were also forced to carry the pregnancy to term.

    We find it unacceptable for women to be imprisoned for seeking or obtaining an abortion, or for women to be denied access to abortion services even when the UN Committee on Human Rights has held that forcing a woman to carry a pregnancy to term that was a result of sexual violence in armed conflict is a form of torture; and in non-conflict situations cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

    We find the preventable death of 70,000 women per year – and the denial of medical services in a range of circumstances from ectopic pregnancies to complications from unsafe abortions – to be unacceptable. These are a violation of a woman’s right to life, right to health, right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman degrading treatment and punishment and the right to non-discrimination.

    We note the right of the Vatican to hold its views on abortion.

    We appreciate that we are not the first and will likely not be the last organisation to be criticised by the Vatican for its position on sexual and reproductive rights. I understand that the Vatican withdrew support from Unicef in 1996 after it distributed post-intercourse spermicide to young women in refugee camps who had been raped. In addition, I see from their website, that SPUC includes the likes of Oxfam and Medécins sans Frontiéres in its list of suspect organisations because of their stances in this area when facing terrible situations on the ground in refugee camps in conflict situations.

    However, Amnesty also acknowledges human rights issues on which common ground with the Catholic Church does exist, including work against the death penalty, the release of prisoners of conscience and the abolition of torture. Amnesty International vigorously defends and respects the rights of individuals to exercise their right to freedom of expression and freedom of association.

    We are currently campaigning (and will continue to campaign) on behalf of Catholics who are denied the freedom to practise their religion in countries such as China.

    The matter of whether individuals, of any faith, agree with or oppose Amnesty International’s policy on sexual and reproductive rights, which includes selected aspects on abortion, is for the individual to decide and should be respected.

    Pete, on your point (post 19), for the record, Amnesty International in Northern Ireland is part of the UK Section of Amnesty and is an integral part of a global movement of some 2.2 million members and supporters in more than 150 countries and territories in every region of the world.

    We are one movement and have one set of policy positions. There is no ‘opting out’ of a policy for any national Section (and our colleagues in the Republic have not done so, however it may have been represented in the media), although some Sections may choose to prioritise – or not – a particular campaign action as local needs or capacity determines.

  • Harry Flashman

    Recently one hundred or so female fetuses were found dumped in a well near a clinic in India, it is clear that these were babies who had been subject to a gender test and girls being considered more of a curse than a blessing in India they were aborted. What is Amnesty’s position on this? When speaking of women’s reproductive rights which are the more important those of the mother aborting an inconvenient baby or those of the female child aborted because her parents wanted a boy?

    What is AI’s position on the “one child” policy in China which also leads to mass extermination of female babies before and after birth?

  • Harry, the problem you identify is both terrible widespread and one which Amnesty takes very seriously.

    A cursory checking of our website would have furnished you with answers to your question – Amnesty International is utterly opposed to forced abortion or sterilisation, whether in India, China or elsewhere.

    For instance, here a couple of excerpts from our 2005 Annual Report entry on China:

    “Serious violations against women and girls continued to be reported as a result of the enforcement of the family planning policy, including forced abortions and sterilizations.”

    “Mao Hengfeng was sent to a labour camp for 18 months’ “Re-education through Labour” in April for persistently petitioning the authorities over a forced abortion 15 years earlier when she became pregnant in violation of China’s family planning policy. She was reportedly tied up, suspended from the ceiling and severely beaten in the labour camp. She had been detained several times in the past in psychiatric units where she had been forced to undergo shock therapy.”

    While here is another excerpt from a 2006 Amnesty report into nursing responsibilities and human rights dealing with Peru:

    “In the five years between 1996 and 2000, more than 250,000 women – mostly poor and from remote rural areas – underwent coerced sterilization, without a proper consent process, during the implementation of a family planning policy in Peru. While the national family planning programme stated that women should be fully informed and permitted to choose their method, which included sterilization, the goals and quotas for sterilizations set for service providers tended to undercut a policy of choice. In July 2002, the Peruvian health ministry revealed that between 1995 and 2001, 331,600 women had been sterilized and 25,590 men had vasectomies as part of a public health programme aiming to cut the birth rate in the country’s poorest regions. Most of those targeted were indigenous people from under-privileged areas in the Andean sierra, the Amazon, and shantytowns around Lima. The report from the health ministry stressed that participants in the programme had been threatened and bribed with food, and none were properly informed about the procedure or its consequences. The problem was not only that such operations were carried out coercively but also that many women did not receive adequate post-operative care and, as a consequence, suffered health problems; some even died.”

    These are just a few randon examples of our research and action on these human rights violations – many more are available online if you are interested.

    Please join us if you want to take action against these violations: http://www.amnesty.org.uk/join

  • Its very gracious of Patrick Corrigan to note the right of the Vatican to hold its own views.
    I note with interest Corrigan’s use of questionable statistics – such as the claimed 70,000 preventable deaths a year (presumably from illegal abortions). Such statistics were used in Amnesty UK’s guidance documents to members on the proposed policy. They were derived from Pro-abortion sources and cannot be verified.
    I note also his questionable claim that Amnesty’s position is “consistent with human rights and humanitarian law.”
    Abortion is not mentioned in a single UN human rights treaty. Indeed, at the ICPD conference in Cairo, when pro-choice lobbyists attempted to claim consensus on “reproductive rights”, UN officials noted *on the record* that no new rights had been established by the conference.
    I further note Amnesty’s intention to “support decriminalisation of abortion and … defend abortion within ‘reasonable’ gestational limits”. Reasonable gestational limits, being undefined and the exact nature of ‘supporting decriminalisation’ being opaque but an undoubted matter of interest to the citizenry of countries such as Ireland, Poland and Malta, who may be of the view that abortion law is properly determined by themselves using such traditional instruments as the ballot box.
    This is especially interesting in the light of any claims that may be made that the decriminalisation of abortion is in line with human rights law and throws up the possibility that where decriminalisation is rejected by electorates, interested parties may try to circumvent democratic processes and insist that governments must amend their laws so as not to be in breach of supposed international human rights laws.
    There was a further intesting detail in Corrigan’s post: “Amnesty has also committed itself to strengthening our work on the prevention of unwanted pregnancies and other factors contributing to women’s recourse to abortion.”
    This seems like a novel departure for a human rights organisation.
    And of course, Corrigan has vigorously defended the nature of Amnesty’s consultation, which he says was arrived at after “long, hard consideration.”
    This “long, hard consideration” seems not to have included the expressed views of Amnesty UK’s own membership. The results of Amnesty’s UK’s own consultation were as follows:

    Question 1 Do you agree that Amnesty International should develop policy to enable
    research and action to achieve the following:
    – decriminalisation of abortion
    – access to quality services for the management of complications arising
    from abortions
    – access to abortion in cases of rape, sexual assault, incest, and risk to a
    woman’s life
    Yes: 45.4% No: 45.7% Undecided: 8.0% No answer: 0.8%

    Question 2 Are there any further circumstances under which AI should develop policy on abortion? eg risk to mother’s health, severe foetal development, sex-selective abortions, unwanted pregnancy in forced or early marriages etc
    Yes: 31.1% No: 42.6% Undecided: 8.0% No answer: 18.4%

    Question 3 Should Amnesty International take the view that a woman’s right to physical
    and mental integrity (her safety and health) includes her right to terminate her pregnancy within reasonable limitations, if she chooses to do so? So abortion should be legal, safe and accessible for all women?
    Yes: 35.3% No: 52.8% Undecided: 9.6% No answer: 2.3%

    In other words, the majority of respondents rejected the proposed policy change. But they were ignored by Amnesty’s leadership. Can Mr Corrigan explain why?

  • Harry Flashman

    Thank you Patrick, however I doubt that in the cases in India or indeed in many if not most of the cases in China the abortions or post birth infanticide are “forced” as the parents concerned simply do not want a girl.

    If these abortions are not forced by the government does AI believe it is fine for the parents to carry out this procedure? If so and the government of India for example passed a law prohibiting abortion on the basis of fetus gender would AI support or condemn such a move?

  • Maria, as I’m sure you will have guessed (the clues being in our name and in the location of our meeting last week), we are a global movement rather than a UK organisation and the policy position outlined above was overwhelmingly adopted by the global membership through our democratic structures.

  • Dawkins

    “(the clues being in our name and in the location of our meeting last week)”

    LOL. Good to Amnesty haven’t lost their sense of humour, what with trying to hold back the darkness on a daily basis.

    Thank you for your posts, Patrick. Very illuminating.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Dawkins: “LOL. Good to Amnesty haven’t lost their sense of humour, what with trying to hold back the darkness on a daily basis. ”

    Feh! A bunch of whiny do-gooders who have the same effect on these matters as would an individual snapping their fingers at the problem every five minutes. They hype motes, occasionally comment on planks, before sweeping them back under the rug so they can holler about the motes again. The sort who get squishy over a cop-killer’s poetry while wearing Che t-shirts to anti-death penalty rallies.

    As I said before, there are far graver (no pun intended) human rights issues in Sudan than whether or not everyone has access to a Planned Parenthood clinic. In fact, were something actually done about the graver problems, oh, like the janjaweed militias, a lot of the other problems would start to fall into place. Not sure that the Muslims of the Sudan (not the Christians or animists, either, come to think of it) would embrace abortion, but without the bad-actors, the perceived need for this “service” would be reduced. It’s a wee bit like the “Free Tibet” crowd — lots of noise, but, beyond putting a new “Free Tibet” bumpersticker on their Volvo one a decade or so, what do they really do?

  • Dawkins

    Dread Cthulhu,

    No doubt the many peeps whose release from hellholes of prisons Amnesty has helped effect will appreciate your support. As will the many thousands of others whose plights this excellent organization has championed throughout the years.

    Best not to confuse AI with UN — although I admit the initials are remarkably similar.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Dawkins: “Best not to confuse AI with UN—although I admit the initials are remarkably similar. ”

    As is their lack of efficacy… but at least AI doesn’t go to the trouble of putting the bad-actors in charge of the committees tasked with investigating the bad actors.

    AI’s prescriptions are almost always palliative (at best), rather than curative — case in point, they want to make sure that the folks in Sudan have access to abortion. Now, glossing over the notion that this prescription is unlikely to have much impact, insofar as the lack of abortion availability is *NOT* even a secondary problem in the area in question, let alone the primary issue — i.e. it won’t solve the problem of which the rapes and unwanted pregnancies are a SYMPTOM. Also, it is not a “solution” the local populace — Muslim or Christian — will embrace. Beyond letting a few folks feel morally superior, what does this actually accomplish, beyond creating an unnecessary and divisive rift?

  • Dawkins

    Dread Cthulhu,

    Jesus, Mary and Joseph, have you ever even looked at an Amnesty website?

    Try this one and get back to me.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Dawkins: “Jesus, Mary and Joseph, have you ever even looked at an Amnesty website? ”

    Oooooooh… self-promotion… now I’m pursuaded… /sarcasm off

    Who do you expect me to believe, “your” website or what I see with mine own eyes, out in the real world, Dawkins?

    You have been singularly unable to address the points in play, starting with Amenesty’s new-found interest in abortion is a silly notion, doing more to divide than unite. Don’t believe me? Even the comments above from AI national level spokespersons has indicated that this move is divisive, with some nations soft-peddling (or not-peddling) the new position. If it’s not playing well in Italy or Ireland, its certainly not going to play in Africa, where they still take their religions seriously.

    AI is more about perceived Western moral superiority than anything else, populated by folks who follow the “throw money and moral platitudes” approach to solving problems, generally at targets who really don’t care about the opinion of Westerners.

    Moral persuasion only works where there is a reasonably compatible pair of morals in play. Amnesty, in general, fails to acknowledge this.

    Besides, anyone so irony-impaired not to grok the Che shirt at a anti-death-penalty rally is too ignorant to take seriously.

  • Dawkins

    Dread Cthulhu,

    Nothing good to say about Amnesty’s extraordinary track record? No insults to retract?

    OK. Goodbye.

  • Patrick,
    I observe that you haven’t addressed my points about the questionable claims Amnesty has made and you have repeated.
    Curiously, complaints about the partisan, undemocratic nature of Amnesty’s “consultation” aren’t limited to the UK.
    This comment on another blog is illuminating:
    “As Red Maria says, the UK respondents didn’t support the change. The general membership in the US WAS NEVER CONSULTED (my emphasis – Maria). The policy was discussed at regional meetings in the US late last year, but: a) most members don’t attend those meetings; and b) pro-life Amnesty members who tried to present the case for continued neutrality on abortion were told that the new policy was NOT BEING DEBATED (my emphasis – Maria), and that the discussion would only be about how best to implement it. Callers to Amnesty’s US national office in May 2006 WERE EVEN TOLD THAT AMNESTY WASN’T CONSIDER A CHANGE IN POLICY ON ABORTION AT ALL AND THAT THAT WAS JUST A RUMOR! (my emphasis – Maria) Members in the Australia chapter are also apparently very upset, based on the press I’ve been seeing from there.”
    So Amnesty members in Ireland, the UK and the US – some of Amnesty’s largest national sections – are being ignored or deceived. This is not consistent with the assertion that the policy was “overwhelmingly adopted by the global membership through our democratic structures.”
    Again, perhaps Mr Corrigan can tell us why Amnesty members have been ignored or deceived.

  • Patrick, you write:

    the policy position outlined above was overwhelmingly adopted by the global membership through our democratic structures

    This is badly at odds with the experience I and other pro-life Amnesty members had. With regard to the “democratic structures” through which this decision was made, I have a few questions:

    * In what ways were members informed of, and encouraged to express their views on, the proposed change in AI’s policy on abortion?

    * Did AI keep track of calls, letters, e-mails and faxes from members expressing their views on the proposed policy? If so, how would you characterize member correspondence — generally for the new policy, against it, or split? If not, why not?

    * What experts were consulted during the decision-making process? Were any of them proponents of human rights for the unborn child, pro-life feminism, or the consistent life ethic?

    * When was the decision to adopt the policy actually made?

    * Was there ever any chance that the new policy on abortion would not be adopted? If so, what circumstances would have led to its rejection?

    Thank you very much for any information you can provide.

    (By the way, I am the person who wrote the comment Red Maria quoted above.)

  • Rory

    Thank you, Dread Cthulu for articulating at length the very suspicion of Amnesty that has long been developing in my mind.

    I was just plagued by a vision of the raped and abused women of Darfur, once they had Amnesty graciously confer “rights” upon them, slipping into their Miatra roadsters and tootling along to the local abortion clinic before refreshing themselves with a skinny latte at Starbucks and a little light handbag shopping afterwards in the mall to cheer them up.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Dawkins, thin-skinned, aren’t you? Wnless you *ARE* one who wears Che t-shirts to anti-death penalty rallies and doesn’t understand the irony, there is nothing for you to take personally. *IF* you are such, I’m sorry, but reading a history pertinent to the subject will clear it up for you.

    The short form would appear that someone with AI pulled an autocratic move, tried to pass it off as the will of the organization. Now, as the chickens come home to roost, excuses are being made and denials presented. The move, as evidenced from the quotes in the story and a number of the posters isn’t playing well. The lies used to present the policy change are being questioned.

    Rory: They’re a shower — a couple steps behind the Peace Corps. types who proscribe solutions unsustainable by the populations they seek to help. At lease the PC A) wants to help and B) has good intentions.

    The AI crowd would appear to be just another of the causettes — they want to feel like they are making a difference without having to question their prescription’s appropriateness or efficacy, even to take Red Maria and Jen R at their word, amongst themselves. A needlessly divisive policy change has been made. It will be interesting to see what happens next, mayhap in the Chinese sense of the word.

  • Oh look, Patrick Corrigan has disappeared. As soon as his carefully spun statements are scrutinised for factual content he melts away. His silence is more eloquent than anything I could say.

  • DavidD

    Abortion is a very emotive issue so it is no surprise that this discussion has generated so much heat. In my view abortion is wrong. If two people have engaged in a relationship, however fleeting, and the result is a pregnancy then I would be treating them as less than human if I expected that they would not live up to their responsibilities and provide for their child. There are however two difficult cases where the general presumption against abortion presents a problem. The easier to resolve is where the mother’s life is genuinely threatened if the baby if carried to full term. In this case society may make a judgement and that judgement must surely be that the mother rather than the unborn child should live. The more difficult case is where, generally in a war situation, the mother becomes unwillingly pregnant through rape. I simply confess that I have no response to the dilemma posed by this case. On the one hand the child conceived is no less worthy of life than any other but on the other hand to expect all women (some I’m sure would cope) to accept the situation seems just too cruel.

  • fra

    Stupid move. losing my support (and many others).

    An organistaion that claims to be pro human rights yet tramples over the views of their own members.

    What about the mass extermination in India and China of unborn babies. That ani’t forced.

    Who’s rights do you support there? The mothers cause the baby happens to be a girl??

    They’ll look back in centuries to come (if the world still exists) and be ashamed at what so call civilised man got up to.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Red Maria: “Oh look, Patrick Corrigan has disappeared. As soon as his carefully spun statements are scrutinised for factual content he melts away. His silence is more eloquent than anything I could say. ”

    This is a suprise? Surely, once it’s clear the Emperor has no clothes, you don’t expect him to hang about…

  • Dread Cthulhu

    DavidD: That was a fair enough analysis… but let me ask you this — who do you think this shift is policy is truly aimed at?

    Africa and South America? Surely not — these are places where religion is still taken deadly seriously (some places more seriously (or more deadly) than others). China and India? Hell, this is almost cover-fire for their policies, or will be molded into such by those governments.

    No, I suspect this is simply just a cheap attempt to wrench the wheel of the organization further to the left and grind a little harder at those nations of the Europe and North America. As evidenced by the posts from some pro-life members, this was not a subject of debate, some sock-puppet’s words to the contrary notwithstanding. This appears to have been an autocratic decree, with some of the national level leaders apparently suprised and/or unhappy with the change.

  • And do you know what else, Dread Cthulu? The sock puppet – Patrick Corrigan – isn’t just anyone. He’s a high level Amnesty official, director of its Northern Ireland operations, in fact.
    But when challenged to verify certain questionable statements he disappeared. The director of Amnesty Northern Ireland couldn’t back up his own spin.
    Not very impressive is it?