Amnesty International: Confusing Human Right from Wrong

Doug Bandow | Grove City College | Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Amnesty International: Confusing Human Right from Wrong

September 10, 2007

"MATCHING GIFT CAMPAIGN DEADLINE," headlined the direct mail letter from Amnesty International. Executive Director Larry Cox said, "I can't stress strongly enough how important it is for Amnesty International to maximize our resources at this critical moment."

I've given to AI before.  But not any more.  AI recently reaffirmed an earlier decision to effectively treat abortion as a basic human right, with nary a nod to the rights of the human being whose life is snuffed out.

The organization, which opposes the death penalty, has created an odd disjunction: life is so precious that even a murderer must be saved, but an unborn child is so unimportant that he may be killed.

Perhaps embarrassed at its sophistry, AI has attempted to downplay its pro-abortion position.  The organization issued a press release blandly explaining that AI supported "the rights of women and girls to be free from threat, force, or coercion as they exercise their sexual and reproductive rights."

But everything depends on the definition of sexual and reproductive rights.  In April, AI's nine-member executive board decided that those rights included "support for abortion."

Amnesty insisted that it was taking "no position on whether abortion is right or wrong, nor on whether or not abortion should be legal."  But that was manifestly untrue.

AI formally focused its attention on the traditional exceptions of rape, sexual assault, incest, threat to mother's life or "grave risk to her health."  But the health exception has come to swallow the whole.  As Ryan T. Anderson, a junior fellow at First Things magazine, pointed out, "If you doubt this, just look at the way Roe's health exception and Doe's broad definition of the word have been used.”

Moreover, because of the penalties enacted, AI opposed the federal ban on partial-birth abortions, where a live baby is killed in a particularly gruesome fashion  The organization dismissed the right of health-care professionals to avoid participating in abortions for reasons of conscience.

Finally, Amnesty did not limit the cases in which it sought "the removal of all criminal penalties (including imprisonment, fines, and other punishments) against those seeking, obtaining, providing information about, or carrying out abortions."

The result is full-scale, across-the-board legalization.  Ironically, by insisting that no one can be punished for violating even a supposedly valid law, AI obviated its formal opposition to sex-selective abortions.

Organization officials recognized that the policy would be controversial, so they even sought to keep their membership quiet.  Karen Schneider, chair of the Sexual and Reproductive Rights Working Group, explained to members that, "It is very important to be aware of the following: This policy will not be made public at this time. ...  This means no section or structure is to issue a press release or public statement or external communication of any kind on the policy decision."

Some pro-life Amnesty supporters hoped that the 400-member International Council would overturn the abortion policy when the group met in Mexico City in mid-August.  But it was not to be.  AI officially announced that the Council "affirmed the organization's policy" on abortion.

Obviously, the issue of abortion is difficult and controversial.  But a group that purports to be concerned with human rights cannot evade the issue of the unborn by claiming to take no position on when life begins.

By effectively supporting the right to abortion up to the moment of birth, AI has decided that the unborn—the most vulnerable and the most helpless in our society—do not count morally in any way at any point.

Moreover, the organization makes much of its efforts "to stop violence against women."  Yet is there a greater act of violence than abortion itself?  And when the baby is female, is not the violence directed against women?

By becoming an advocate of abortion, AI has done more than abandon the unborn who so need an outside advocate.  Amnesty has undercut its credibility in aiding prisoners of conscience and other victims of state oppression around the globe.  AI also has made it difficult for some of its most obvious allies—religious activists committed to the life and dignity of all human beings—to back AI's work.

I'm sorry, Mr. Cox, but I can't send Amnesty International money any longer.  I believe there is no more fundamental human right than the right to life.  It is unfortunate that an otherwise worthy group like AI is unwilling to defend human life in all of its forms.

Doug Bandow is a former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan and Vice President for Policy of Citizen Outreach. He is a member of the Economic Theory & Policy Working Group with the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College and the author or editor of several books, including Foreign Follies: America's New Global Empire (Xulon Press).