THE ISSUE as covered by the UK’s Tablet magazine. The Tablet is a Catholic magazine read widely around the English speaking world and unfortunately its coverage of the issue to date has been disappointing. Nevertheless, two pieces appear in this week’s edition, as well as a leader criticising Amnesty’s decision.

Amnesty loses friends over abortion policy

THE VATICAN this week intensified its call to Catholics to stop supporting Amnesty International following the pressure group’s decision to back the legalisation of abortion.

AI affirmed a revised abortion policy at the conclusion of its leadership council meeting in Mexico last week, making official a departure from its longtime neutrality on the issue despite protests from many Catholic leaders.

“With the prevention of violence against women as its major campaigning focus AI’s leaders committed themselves anew to work for universal respect for sexual and reproductive rights,” the organisation said in a statement released after the meeting.

Under the new policy, the group said, AI would support the decriminalisation of abortion, push for access to health care for women suffering from complications of abortion procedures, and “defend women’s access to abortio, within reasonable gestational limits, when their health or human rights are in danger”.

In all, the group said, the revisions to its policy aim to emphasise that “women and men must exercise their sexual and reproductive rights free from coercion, discrimination and violence.”

The announcement was followed by strongly worded criticism by the Vatican. “One cannot eliminate life as such, even if it is the fruit of violence,” said the Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone SDB.

Analysts feared the move would weaken joint efforts between church groups and AI on several other justice issues, including disarmament and the abolition of capital punishment.

Italy’s leading Catholic newspaper said the decision to back legalised abortion, even in the case of rape, was a “disturbing precedent” in a “glorious organisation” that had worked so effectively for human rights.

by Timothy Lavin and Robert Mickens, The Tablet 25 August 2007.

Listen to the deputy editor of the Tablet talk about the issue here (the AI discussion starts about 6minutes and 22 secs into the programme and lasts for 6 minutes or so).