AS A SIDEBAR to the article below, in June the Irish Section of Amnesty International distanced itself from the rest of the organization. Roxanne Macara of Amnesty Ireland said that the Irish Section “will not be working on the issue of access to abortion.” She explained that the Irish membership supported a neutral position on the abortion issue….just a pity that the UK Section (whose membership also supported a neutral position) hadn’t also acted with the same integrity.

In today’s Irish Independent, David Quinn writes:
Irish Indepoendent

Human rights and wrongs … why Amnesty abortion belief a mistake

There was a time when Amnesty International existed to highlight the plight of prisoners of conscience, hence its logo consisting of a lighted candle surrounded by barbed wire.

The organisation has since turned into a much more all-encompassing human rights body with many different concerns and many different issues. One of these issues, it seems, is to be abortion.

As we are only too painfully aware, there is nothing like abortion to divide opinion. With regard to prisoners of conscience there is broad consensus; their plight should be highlighted. Of course, there might occasionally be disagreement as to whether a particular person should be classified as a prisoner of conscience or not, but next to nobody believes that it is wrong to draw attention to prisoners of conscience per se.

Abortion is different. It is more divisive. We cannot agree on which comes first, a woman’s right to an abortion or an unborn child’s right to life. There are people of good will on both sides. Amnesty International has long steered clear of the abortion issue precisely for this reason.

Not any longer. After a lengthy process, it has decided to recognise a right to abortion, although Amnesty Ireland is staying neutral. The ostensible reason is the use of rape as a weapon of war in Darfur. But look a little closer and you’ll see that Amnesty wants a right to abortion for a lot of other reasons as well. As this paper reported on Monday, the decision by Amnesty to back abortion “will also cover women whose health is at risk from giving birth”.

In practice this means supporting abortion on demand. In Britain, women are only allowed to have abortion on stated grounds. They must specify a reason, e.g., a threat to their health. But in reality this translates into abortion on demand, so this is what Amnesty has now thrown its considerable weight behind. Let’s not pretend otherwise. Amnesty was founded by a Catholic and this makes its decision doubly depressing, not to mention deeply ironic. Even worse is the attempt by the organisation to fob off any opposition to its new policy as merely “theological”. As Kate Gilmore, Amnesty’s deputy general secretary put it: “Ours is a movement dedicated to upholding human rights, not specific theologies. Our purpose invokes the law and the state, not God.”

My first reaction to that statement is simply to say that anyone can invoke the law and the state, including champion human rights abusers like Kim Jong-il over in North Korea. However, the fact is that practically no-one is asking Amnesty to uphold a specific theology, much less the law of God. The right to life of the unborn can be defended without any recourse to theology or God, and Gilmore must know this or she needs to do a bit more reading.

More importantly, in deciding to back abortion Amnesty has “dedicated” itself (to use Gilmore’s word) not to a “specific” theology but to a specific view of human rights. The organisation could as easily have decided to defend the right to life instead of the right to an abortion. It could have cited the mass aborting of female foetuses in such places as India and China as a justification for opposing abortion. That is every bit as emotive an issue as the use of rape of as a weapon of war.

What is happening to Amnesty is that it is allowing itself to be captured by a “specific” ideology. To be even more specific, it has allowed itself to be captured by a left-wing ideology that,more generally, is trying to make human rights its own and is therefore giving human rights a bad name.

When Amnesty International highlighted prisoners of conscience it was an almost universally respected organisation. Today it is much more one-eyed. For example, last year it was far more indignant about Israeli behaviour in Lebanon than it was about Hezbollah attacks on Israeli civilian populations. It also waxes much more indignant about America than it does about say, North Korea. In its annual report the US gets four pages, but North Korea and Cuba get just one each, and much of the Cuba report consists of a complaint about the US embargo. The excuse it uses is that America is an open society and therefore it is easier to compile reports about it. But this is simply an incentive to hide information.

Amnesty International will remain an influential organisation. But understand, it will no longer be seen as an impartial and bipartisan organisation.

Its decision to back abortion is simply further proof of its drift into a particular ideological camp and it will cause it to lose the respect of countless people who would otherwise have gladly supported it, including those who are oppose American foreign policy but pro-life, and there are far more in this category than you think. What has happened is needless, unjustifiable and tragic.