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Amnesty International Part I: Is Abortion a human right?

Posted by Matthew McCusker on 24 October 2012

In 2007 the 'human-rights' organisation Amnesty International adopted a pro-abortion stance, proclaiming on the 14th June that:

"Amnesty International today firmly stood by the rights of women and girls to be free from threat, force or coercion as they exercise their sexual and reproductive rights1."

There was an immediate outcry among pro-life supporters of the group, such as the Rt Rev Michael Evans, Bishop of East Anglia, who resigned his membership after thirty-one years of active involvement in the organisation.

Amnesty International is clearly anxious to try and regain lost support. SPUC has been forwarded a letter sent to one our supporters which expresses Amnesty's desire to "allow us to open up communication channels with you once again" and seeks to allay their concerns about their abortion policy. This letter, under the name of Imran Uppal of the Supporter Care Team of Amnesty International UK, seems to be a standard response which is sent to former supporters who have expressed opposition to their policy.

In this series I will examine both this letter and the general consistency of their policy.

Part I: Does Amnesty International consider abortion to be a human right?

In the first paragraph of the letter Mr Uppal states:

"Our policies in this area do not seek to promote abortion as a human right."

In making this statement they seek to persuade potential supporters that in donating to Amnesty International they will not be supporting a 'pro-abortion' organisation that is as firmly committed to promoting abortion as it is other 'human rights.'

However this position is contradicted within the very same document in the following statement:

"The purpose of the policy (adopted in 2007) in this area of rights is to make a difference in the lives of women and girls who have suffered egregious human rights violations, or are at risk of such violations, and who are deeply affected by their lack of access to appropriate sexual and reproductive information and services, and by their criminalisation for the crime of abortion."

It  goes on to say that their policy on abortion was

"incorporated into the broader sexual and reproductive rights policy in April 2007"

Amnesty International 'calls on states' to:

  • Provide women and men with full information on sexual and reproductive health
  • Repeal laws criminalizing abortion

And also to

  • Ensure access to abortion services to any woman who becomes pregnant as the result of rape, sexual assault or incest, or where a pregnancy poses a risk to a woman's life or a grave risk to her health.

In other words AI demands:

  • The right to information about how to get an abortion
  • The right to legal abortion
  • The right to ensured access to abortion in a wide range of circumstances

Commenting on a recent case in Argentina Guadalupe Marengo, the Deputy Americas Programme Director, stated that:

"The Argentinian authorities must ... respect this woman's right to a safe and legal abortion2."

Kate Allen, the director of Amnesty International UK, has said:

"Amnesty International believes that any denial of safe, legal abortion in rape cases constitutes a violation of human rights3."

In a document they produced on the prohibition of abortion in Nicaragua they state:

"Amnesty International believes that where women's access to safe and legal abortion services and information is restricted, their fundamental human rights may be at grave risk4."

If this is the case then Amnesty International has to explain why they continue to tell prospective pro-life donors that:

"Our policies in this area to do not seek to promote abortion as a human right."

See also

1. http://www.amnesty.org.uk/news_details.asp?NewsID=17378
2. http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/argentina-abortion-delays-rape-survivor-amount-torture-2012-10-12
3. http://www.amnesty.org.uk/news_details.asp?NewsID=18681
4. 'The Total Abortion Ban in Nicaragua', Amnesty International (London, 2009)

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