WHENEVER Amnesty International is chastised for its new abortion policy, which is more frequently than they thought, representatives of the organisation’s leadership rush to defend themselves and claim they are being misinterpreted.

“Amnesty does not,” they claim, “advocate abortion as a human right. It recognises abortion as a sexual and reproductive right and so it can’t stand by and let this right be ignored.”

At the same time they make the claim that AI still has no position on whether abortion is good or bad and also claim AI still has no view on when life begins (if this were indeed the case, then the Amnesty leadership might explain why they are happy to take a chance that innocent people are having fundamental rights removed by being aborted, without AI making any comment).

AI’s position is all about spin and semantics, of course. Amnesty has, at least until recently, existed to promote and protect human rights. So it doesn’t like the idea of having to claim directly in a press release that abortion is a human right. Instead the intermediate step is put in place: abortion is one of a woman’s sexual and reproductive rights and, therefore, as a human rights organisation, AI is duty bound to protect those rights. So they happily dance around (and some would say over) the definition of human rights.

The Amnesty International leadership found that definitions are problematic in their recent arguments to force the policy on the organisation (and AI folk, if you want to talk about the two-year consultation – substantiate your claims it was fair, democratic and meaningful and provide the answers that many members have been demanding; after all, a consultation doesn’t really mean much if you’ve already adopted the policy as a fait accompli – see previous posts.). Most notably, the definintion of the “right to life” has been problematic for the introduction of the policy; Amnesty now put caveats on the right to life…you have to reach a certain age before you qualify now apparently. Awkward definitions may be why AI’s recent arguments have been so short of their own definitions: for example, how does AI define “health” for the purpose of having an abortion? What is an “acceptable gestation period”?

Even although it has not articulated its definitions, AI leadership has, by its actions, decreed that all of what it once stood for is now up for debate. None of AI’s former clear-cut policies can be taken on face value any more.

Even AI’s campaigns to stop torture, must surely now carry a caveat: perhaps torture is acceptable in “certain circumstances” (another phrase popular with the AI spokespeople). Let’s take an example: a bomb is set to go off in a crowded market place frequented by hundreds of women, luckily the security forces have caught a terrorist who knows the exact location of the device and interrogation could stop the explosion. Where does Amnesty now stand? By its own logic employed in an attempt to legitimise its pro abortion policy, AI should now be campaigning for the use of torture to extract information in order to protect the women from violence. AI says an innocent individual’s right to life can be removed in certain circumstances to protect women, then surely torturing a terrorist is permissible if it also might stop violence against women.

So if we concede that the right to life and not be totured is not as cut and dried as we at first thought, is there any principle of the organisation safe?

And then there is the death penalty. AI has yet to give credible justification for its continued campaigns to abolish capital punishment, while at the same time approving of abortion “in certain circumstances” and acknowledging that the aborted child may indeed constitute a human life (AI insists it still has not taken any view as to when life begins). But we await the explanation with interest….we won’t hold our breath though.

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