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August 18, 2007

Amnesty Internatinal drops abortion neutrality

The BBC reports that the human rights organization Amnesty International has dropped its longstanding neutrality on abortion.

The group will now campaign for the abortion rights of women who have become pregnant through rape or incest.

The policy was changed in April and overwhelmingly ratified at the organization's international council meeting in Mexico this week. 

One impetus for the change is the fact that rape is now acknowledged as a widely-used weapon of war in many of the countries where Amnesty operates.


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"Once impetus for the change is that rape is now acknowledged as a widely-used weapon of war..."

I guess it was about time to acknowledge this reality, since its been recorded in history and literature at least since the time of the Iliad. Still, good for them.

Having just read Antony Beevor’s “The Fall of Berlin 1945” in which the unconcern of the Soviet command with respect to the problem of enforcing, ahem, “troop discipline” is discussed at length, I had to imagine the cognitive dissonance the probably tens of thousands of rapes in that battle would cause in the pro-life wingnut mind. Abort or not? Precious gift from God, or commie spawn of Stalinist monsters? Would a pro-life fruitcake who believes the Hand of God fiddles with everything, ascribe the deaths of women from kitchen table abortions (In Berlin in the spring of 1945, you could consider yourself lucky if you still had a kitchen table.) to divine justice? Probably.

Cass, I was thinking the same thing. Better late than never, though.

I was hoping that AI would also publicly back the human right to an abortion to preserve the life and health of the woman. I think they're being cagey on this one. They're already vocal and explicit advocates of the right to health. So, they may have implicitly committed themselves to a health exemption by dropping their neutrality on other abortion-related issues.

I went to the AI website and checked for the official organizational policy, but I couldn't find an official synopsis of the exact change. Maybe it contains a health and survival proviso. Some news sources speculated in advance that AI would include one, but I haven't seen any proof of it from AI or media reports.

Anyone know for sure?

If you go here:
it talks about abortion in terms of the woman in a couple places and it certainly seems pretty plain that they support abortions in the case of health (one of the categories is: '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.')
That doesn't seem cagey to me.

Oops, I meant to say:
'it talks about abortion in terms of the woman's health'

this is awesome. the cognitive dissonance of the Catholic Amnesty supporters over here is a sight to behold.


JohnL, you're absolutely right. Sorry, AI. The life and health exemption is right here in black and white.

Wow. Sure enough, according to the Catholic Church, AI has "betrayed its mission" and must be abandoned.

Catholic Church to political prisoners: "We'd love to help, but the vampire baby killers have tied our hands. Sorry."

Amnesty's action is welcome, though a bit overdue, considering the group's history - even Helen Bamber heard testimonies about rape back in 1945, which is why> her foundation focuses on those victims. As an advocate in the 1990s, I found Amnesty somewhat reluctant to take up the issue of military rape at all.

I was still startled to have the responses from the Vatican, et al. used as the only context in most news reports, instead of, say, Samantha Power. Are they going for balance - which should mean the full story - or just running for cover?

This is a sad day for Amnesty International. This once proud organization (like so many others) has been co-opted by the left, subverting its original mission as well as its future effectiveness.

The Catholic Church has often worked effectively with Amnesty International and now it cannot in good conscious do so. This is also the case with previous Catholic supporters of Amnesty and its mission. In fact Amnesty International was founded by a devout Catholic.

One can “expand” terms like human rights to include almost anything (witness the “human rights campaign) and end up as the little boy who cried wolf. For years AI has been losing respect and increasingly considered just another haven for left wing kooks.

The important and crucial work of holding governments and international organizations accountable for violations of basic habeas corpus, torture, suppression of dissent and so forth is severely damaged.

The idea that rape as a tactic of war is somehow new is ridiculous. Has no one ever heard of “rape & pillage”. During the Bosnian/Kosovo conflicts Muslim soldiers raped dozens of Christian Nuns. These nuns carried these children to term and respected the basic rights of the child despite the horrific acts of the perpetrator.

AI current policy of trying to have it both ways is indecipherable. It ought to have kept itself above this contentious issue and proceeded to defend its traditional & vital mission.

(important reading)

I should just ignore him, but it's hard. Fitz does have it partially right--rape as a weapon is nothing new. Rape is used to silence and intimidate women and their families--in some societies the woman can even be punished (even killed) for being raped.
Fitz seems to be with them:
he says that women who are raped must carry them to term (this certainly seems like punishment to me);
he says nothing about the clause about health exceptions. In some countries, like Nicaragua, a woman can't get an abortion even if it's certain that the foetus will be born dead or if there is a significant risk to the health of the mother.

I also notice a bit of racism creeping in--many more muslims were killed or raped in the Bosnian conflict but he talks about Christians who were raped. The Christian Serbs were the aggressors.

It ought to have kept itself above this contentious issue and proceeded to defend its traditional & vital mission.

All the issues that Amnesty International deals with are contentious. Otherwise there would be no need for it. It's unfortunate if opposition to them on this specific issue leads you/the Catholic church to withdraw support for them in general, or work with them on other issues. But I'm sure that they face similar threats from people who agree with them in general, but support the death penalty or Guantanamo.

I met a woman at an international law conference a few years ago who operated a shelter/home for wartime rape victims in Sarajevo; she assured me that while the Serbs may have been a bit more systematic, victims of every group were well represented there. But why a home? Oddly enough, for all their differences, the different ethnic groups were in general agreement on at least one thing: victims of rape were "damaged goods" who deserved to live the rest of their lives ostracized from society.

Another rule I've learned- an "issue of contention" in human rights usually refers to one of two things:

A. My nation/state/tribe deserves a special exemption from this; or

B. Its something that involves women or girls.

I'll just save a lot of time: Fitz, take your woman hating theofascism elsewhere. The fact that you think it is even remotely acceptable that a woman be forced to carry a parasite, and suffer through a brutally painful experience at the end, due to her violation at the behest of men is nothing but plain-vanilla inhumanity. I think I can speak for the general readership here when I say we have no interest in dealing with such misogyny.

In many ways, rape is not a weapon, but the purpose of war.


This once proud organization (like so many others) has been co-opted by the left

This organization has not been co-opted by the left, it is OF the left.
The Catholic Church has often worked effectively with Amnesty International and now it cannot in good conscious do so.

That would be false even with proper spelling and punctuation. In the vast majority of cases people of goodwill in the Catholic community will support the goals of AI.
One can “expand” terms like human rights to include almost anything

Shame on you. Amnesty's stance may differ from yours with regard to when one enters into the human community (the Bible repeatedly uses the "breath of life" to characterize life's beginning, and nowhere refers to conception, but you are entitled to your misreading), but to imply that the right to the integrity of ones own body, as Amnesty does in standing up for rape victims, is a vanity issue, is unfair.

You may have a different moral assumptions, but to imply that objecting to being forced to carry a rapist's child is somehow an un-serious expansion of human rights is a shameful denigration of women.

Is it your position that the right of men to gather and chant ancient incantations is sacrosanct, but a woman's right to control her own body is trivial? We disagree.

These nuns carried these children to term and respected the basic rights of the child despite the horrific acts of the perpetrator.

Again, rhetorical sleight of hand. Amnesty supports the rights of children of rape, and you know it, they just disagree with you as to when children become children. If you wish to address that issue, do so honestly.

And if the nuns have so much respect for children, taking a vow never to get pregnant is a funny way to assert it.

For years AI has been losing respect and increasingly considered just another haven for left wing kooks.

For years the Catholic Church has been losing respect and is increasingly considered just another haven for right-wing kooks. Starting with Pope Pius XII endorsing the Reichskonkordat in 1933, proceeding with “Stille Hilfe” movement helping ex-Nazis after the war, providing succor to people like Paul Touvier and Klaus Barbie, continuing on through the Cold War era when the church was altogether quite comfortable with the nastiest South American generals, to the present day when the current pope continues the war on Vatican II started by the last right-wing kook pope. Should we mention the mountains of cash the church has shelled out to victims of pervy priests that couldn’t keep it under their frock and their bishops that couldn’t be bothered?

The church has a very serious public relations problem and its source ain’t just leftie secularist propaganda.

First off whats going to start happening here is that basically Amnesty International will eventually give in to woman having full reproductive rights to abort a child for any reason at all...sure a woman getting raped is horrible but now two horrible things happen to the woman...shes raped and has to abort a child and you dont think her life will be forever scared over the abortion and why not take something horrible that happened to her and do the most incredible selfless act and have the child and its not the child's fault in the womb that this happened and why should it pay the ultimate price of being riped apart but nobody cares about being nartyers on here just going down the same road of indifference to human life and if you get enough people to believe that abortion is ok you eventually will!!!...probably because we basically taken a human life and basically have said if you can't yell out and say you want to live in the womb your just a worthless gob of human matter neverless of what we all know it really is

Shame on you who support abortion you will have me to answer to one day!!! owe me YOU ALL OWE ME!!!


Once again everyone is talking past each other on this issue.

It is the Catholic belief that from the moment of conception, a foetus is an actual, real, living person due every right and privilege that any human is entitled to. To criticize the Church for acting on this belief consistently is foolish if not disingenuous. The real task before pro-aborts is to prove that a foetus is not a person, not to nit-pick about policy decisions that are intrinsically a posteriori to this fundamental issue.

" prove that a foetus is not a person..."

Isn't it a venerable principle in such disputations, RMS, that the burden of proof is on the affirmative? Then the task before anti-choicers is to prove that the fetus is a person, or should count for one. And they must try to do so without invoking a magisterium that counts for little in the wider world.

R.M. Schultz,

Since you've already chosen to define a 'person' as 'anything from the point of conception', I think you're quite full of it.

I'm also glad to hear that newborns have every right and priviledge that any other human being is entitled to, including voting and smoking tobacco. You've clearly given this a lot of thought!

Nit-pick my ass.

The "proof" is readily available to anyone who really wants base their arguements on scientific evidence rather than anecdotal feelings or ideologies. it is not a complex, ambiguous or otherwise illusive answer to the never ending question; it is unambiguous and not at all debatable: life is defined as cellular regeneration. once implantation takes place, human cellular regeneration is taking place. It is human cellular regeneration and therefore, human life. I believe that the right to life (as in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, for the americans out there)trumps women's reproductive rights. As a woman, i resent women using such brutal violence against those who can't advocate for themselves as a platform for the feminist movement. I consider myself a feminist. I don't want any man, woman, or otherwise telling me what i can or can't do with my body, but as a human being who respects ALL human life, and as someone who has watched an actual abortion, i believe that my rights over my body end once they impose on another human being's rights. I am Pro-life not for any religious reason, but because i have seen an abortion done on a 12 week fetus, and i know what it actually means to "terminate a pregnancy". I am pro-life because i believe that we as humans, should NEVER have the power to end another human life. It's the same reason i am against the death penalty. Whether the fetus is inside or outside the mother doesn't change that it is a human, it is just geography. People say, "it couldn't survive outside of the mothers body" and that is usually true, but neither could a newborn survive without someone taking care of it. If organizations whose entire premise is that of supporting human rights ignores the rights of those who can't yet advocate for themselves in order to be more popular with the current PC beliefs, who will? Stick up for those who don't have a voice.

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