Monday, January 08, 2007

Amnesty International: consultation on abortion

Current status: Amnest International is considering adding the right to abortion to the rights it campaigns for. Amnesty members please fill in the consultation form, here.

From CFNews: Bishop Michael Evans of the Diocese of East Anglia writes : 'Amnesty UK is currently carrying out a consultation leading up to next year's AGM in March. They are asking members to consider whether Amnesty can call for safe abortions as a remedy in cases of abuses of sexual and reproductive rights, as a matter of right, or whether there should be limited circumstances when they could do so. A final decision will be made at the International Council Meeting in August 2007. Members of Amnesty can complete a questionnaire online at:

The deadline for the consultation is February 2nd, 2007. If you are an Amnesty member, please take the time to complete and send a questionnaire, which can be completed online.

Amnesty International is an organisation which has done great work for human rights since it was founded by Peter Benenson, a Catholic, in 1961. I have been a member for 30 years, including time as a member of Amnesty's British section Council and as chairman of its Religious Bodies Liaison Panel. Last year, I was asked to write the prayer for their new campaign. As much today as ever before, the world needs Amnesty and its members to work rigorously for the freedom of prisoners of conscience, for fair trials for all, and against torture and the death penalty. There are many Catholics involved in Amnesty, individually and as members of affiliated parishes and J&P groups. I was dismayed to hear, therefore, that the 2006 AGM of Amnesty International UK voted to move away from Amnesty's neutral stance on abortion and propose that Amnesty adopt a position that women have a right to legal, safe and accessible abortion should they choose to have an abortion. It is important to note that there has as yet been no change of Amnesty International policy on the issue: either the International Executive Committee or the 2007 International Council Meeting would make such a decision. But a positive vote by the UK section is potentially an important step towards such a change. The Amnesty UK AGM resolution called for further consultation among Amnesty's UK members. Catholic members need to play their active role in this consultation.

It seems to me there are two key points to me made: Firstly, Amnesty International was not founded to be an all-embracing human rights organisation, but rather to focus effectively - as it so clearly has - on certain key issues. Whatever the range of views of Amnesty members on abortion, moving from its neutral stance may well serve to undermine its effectiveness in its key areas of expertise and influence. It may also cause harmful divisions in Amnesty. Secondly, it would be very difficult for Catholics and many others to continue as formal members of an organisation which explicitly excluded some of the most vulnerable of all - the 'unborn human' - from its current campaign to 'Protect the Human'. The world needs Amnesty International. It has touched the lives of countless numbers of people across the world who have been wrongly imprisoned for their beliefs or subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment. Long may it do so - hopefully with the active support of Catholics worldwide. But this will be seriously threatened should Amnesty adopt a policy supporting the right to abortion. Those involved in decision-making at international level need to ponder this very carefully indeed. Please take action now'.

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Pope Leo XIII's Prayer to St Michael

Holy Michael, Archangel, defend us in the day of battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust down to Hell Satan, and all wicked spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen