Amnesty International USA has prepared an internal document to respond to queries from the press and public. The document is quite lengthy, so I’ll post them in separate posts….together with a “no-spin” translation.

How did AI decide on the scope and content of its abortion policy?

As a democratic membership-based organization AI has a tradition of reaching major policy decisions after

thorough internal discussion and debate with the membership. The issue of abortion has been no exception.

The issue emerged on AI’s policy agenda in 2003, around the time of the launch of AI’s global campaign to Stop Violence against Women. Following a series of discussions in various policy forums, the

top secret

2005 meeting of the International Council (AI’s highest decision-making body) decided to adopt a policy on sexual and reproductive rights. It also decided that AI should embark on a movement-wide consultation to clarify its position on selected aspects of abortion.

All AI Sections and Structures consulted with their members, including through debates at their annual meetings, workshops or other means. These were aimed at exploring the diversity of views on abortion and abortion-related issues, building better understanding of the issues and establishing consensus. In July 2006, AI adopted a broadbased policy on the rights of women and men to make informed decisions about sex and reproduction free from coercion, discrimination and violence. The policy covers areas such as sex education, access to sexual health information, the promotion of safe motherhood, contraception and other options to address unwanted pregnancy and reduce resort to abortion. It also covers AI’s opposition to coercive population control measures such as forced sterilization and forced abortion. The comprehensive approach that AI has adopted shows that its concern is not only related to abortion but to broader issues of sexual and reproductive rights and violence against women.

No spin: We have ways. OK, the Brits voted against this in their membership consultation, but they got it wrong, so we ignored that. AIUSA held a secret ballot of its members – so secret that not many knew that we had it – and we decided not to reveal the result anyway. Let’s face it abortion is a divisive issue, so it’s much better to obfuscate it with other less-contentious issues relating to women’s rights.

Does AI promote “abortion as human right”?

No. Some media reports and individuals have claimed that AI promotes a “human right to abortion.” This grossly misrepresents AI’s policy on sexual and reproductive rights.

AI takes no position on whether abortion is right or wrong, nor on whether or not abortion should be legal. The particular right AI works to protect is the right of all women to be free of any form of coercion, discrimination or violence as they make and put into effect informed decisions regarding the regulation of their fertility.

AI’s sexual and reproductive rights policy emphasizes access to contraceptive services and to sexual health information so that the risk of unwanted pregnancies can be reduced.

Huh uh, the real answer is: Yes. We are advocating abortion as a human right in some instances, in fact we even say that we formulated this policy to protect people’s human rights, so it follows that we have decided the unborn child has no rights and that it is a human right to have an abortion. Of course this is far too distasteful to admit, so although we don’t say if abortion is right or wrong, we are saying, in effect, that an individual’s human rights includes the right to have an abortion.