Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Amnesty UK votes abortion a human right

As expected, the Amnesty International UK section has endorsed the AIUK Board's shameful proposals to advocate abortion as a human right.

Despite the fact that the majority of members who responded to a consultation voted against a change in the policy on abortion (at present the organisation has a neutral stance), the AIUK Board managed to get their resolution passed even though far more members responded to the consultation than were able to attend an early morning Sunday meeting in Edinburgh at last weekend's AGM.

Some members accused the Board of AIUK of gerrymandering in order to get the results they desired. The Board has been widely condemned for the biased manner in which it has conducted the debate and consultation period, and has been accused of riding roughshod over members' wishes.

Christine Usher, AIUK's vice chair who proposed the pro-abortion resolutions and who is currently standing for re-election to the AIUK board, told the UK Amnesty International meeting that there was sufficient support among the 72 national sections for a policy to be implemented soon.

There is still a chance that Amnesty International's governing body will come to realise that this decision does not have widespread support among its membership base.

Monday, March 19, 2007

AIUK consultation results

Amnesty International UK has released the results of the consultation conducted over the last few months on the issue of whether or not to change the abortion policy. The results for whether this should happen are almost evenly split, despite the less-than-level playing field the organization gave to the consultation process. There were c1,800 responses; AIUK's report emphasises that as this is less than 1% of the membership, most members have not expressed a view (would this point have been made so strongly if the vote against the moves had not been so high?). Here are the results as presented by AIUK:

Question 1 Do you agree that Amnesty International should develop policy to enable research and action to achieve the following: - decriminalisation of abortion - access to quality services for the management of complications arising from abortions - access to abortion in cases of rape, sexual assault, incest, and risk to a woman’s life Yes: 45.4% No: 45.7% Undecided: 8.0% No answer: 0.8%

Question 2 Are there any further circumstances under which AI should develop policy on abortion? eg risk to mother’s health, severe foetal development, sex-selective abortions, unwanted pregnancy in forced or early marriages etc Yes: 31.1% No: 42.6% Undecided: 8.0% No answer: 18.4%

Question 3 Should Amnesty International take the view that a woman’s right to physical and mental integrity (her safety and health) includes her right to terminate her pregnancy within reasonable limitations, if she chooses to do so? So abortion should be legal, safe and accessible for all women? Yes: 35.3% No: 52.8% Undecided: 9.6% No answer: 2.3%

Respondents’ views In favour of rejecting the policy - opposition to abortion under any circumstances, on the basis of religious belief or other ethical considerations; - concern that the rights of the unborn child should also be considered in any discussion on the issue of abortion; - concern over the expanding scope of Amnesty International’s work especially when other organisations already exist and are better placed to work on the issue; - concern that the adoption of policy on abortion could damage Amnesty International’s international reputation and cause members to leave. In favour of adopting policy - conviction that Amnesty International should support a woman’s right to abortion without interference or opposition from the state or religious organisations; - belief that the work of Amnesty International on the Stop Violence Against Women campaign created a need to develop policy on sexual and reproductive rights; - perception that a gap in Amnesty International policy needs to be plugged in order for Amnesty International to be able to engage in debate on women’s rights and retain its credibility as an international organisation; - concern about the health and legal implications for women resorting to illegal and therefore possibly unsafe abortion. "

The results will be used to debate resolutions put to the AGM next weekend.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Use your vote to stop abortion AIUK members told

The following is taken from this week's Universe, a Catholic newspaper in the UK.

Amnesty International votes on abortion stance 16 March 2007. Catholic members of Amnesty International are being urged to make sure they do not miss out on a vote on the abortion issue at the organisation’s AGM. Delegates at the three-day conference, which takes place at Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh from Friday March 23 will be discussing whether Amnesty International should adopt a pro-choice stance. Two motions supporting the argument will be put forward, with an alternative E3 motion proposing the group remains neutral on the subject also being discussed. Catholic members are being urged to vote for this. Dan Baird, the secretary of the Newman Society in Glasgow and a member of AI said a vote for a pro-choice stance could lead to conflict with many countries throughout the world, which forbid or restrict access to abortion. He said: “The way Amnesty International have conducted the process of consultation from regional meetings down to the grass roots has seen very little voice given to the pro-life argument. “There needs to be more time to discuss this, which a vote for motion E3 would provide.” Delegates who cannot attend the AGM, can vote by proxy. All proxy votes have to be in by 5pm on March 21. US senator Chris Smith also recently urged AI members to reject any changes that could alter the organisation’s stance on abortion.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Sad news from a college campus

I came across this blog post today, which highlights the importance of the need to continue lobbying AI and all members on the issue. The writer attended a university meeting of Amnesty International and sadly the vote seemed to be overwhelmingly in favor of advocating abortion in certain circumstances; I suspect that this scenario will be reflected around other campuses. He describes how a "Women's Lib" society representative was there; it is just a pity that so many people from women's organizations do not realize that anti-abortion campaigners want equal, fundamental human rights for both sexes: the right to life. I think that this was at a UK university, so with AIUK's AGM still 10 days or so away there is still time to campaign.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

International law, human rights and the unborn

With many sections holding their AGMs about now, it's probably useful to remind ourselves of an argument that will undoubtedly be trotted out by some of the members of the organization that are campaigning for the advocacy of abortion. An argument that, as Michael Johann pointed out in a comment to this blog, AI Secretary General Irene Khan is happy to make during the less-than-impartial consultation period. [In an interview with the Weltwoche from Switzerland Irene Khan said: There is no human right to life for a fetus. (Sixth Question/Answer)] Setting aside the question of whether or not it is proper for the Secretary General to make these arguments at all at this time, the argument that the unborn child has no rights under international law is not only biased interpretation of law, it is also quite wrong.

Those proposing advocating abortion will usually try and shout you down and rhyme off some legislation they claim supports their view. The fact is that the following documents provide strong commitments to protecting human rights of all without discrimination. This is one of the reasons that AI has stayed neutral on the position fo so long; the organization recognized the rights could be extended to the unborn and knew that this was specifically discussed at many of the draft stages of the documents.

  • the United Nations Charter,
  • the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)
  • the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948)
  • the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966),
  • the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989),
  • the Declaration of the Rights of the Child (1959)

More...Discriminating against the unborn because of their age, status, personhood, or disability is an infringement of their human rights. To retain their legitimacy human rights organizations, such as AI, cannot favor one person's human rights over another because of age. If you're interested in learning more about the question of the unborn child's human rights under international law a good place to start is Drs John Fleming and Michael Hains discussion here.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

International Women's Day

The 8th March is the annual International Women's Day. This is an important day to celebrate a movement that has done an enormous amount of good work over the years to protect women and help women across the globe secure opportunities to achieve their full potential, without discrimination because of their sex.

There is, of course, still much work to be done, which is why many local Amnesty International groups will hold special events this week to celebrate IWD, and some will even link it to the ongoing campaign to stop violence against women. Now, no right thinking person would condone violence against anyone; woman, child or man. But on International Women's Day we should take a moment to think about the violence that is being inflicted on females in the womb.

More...The danger with some of the local campaigns is that the rights of women get confused; I have seen a local AI campaign (I stress this is at a local level, not a national level) that is already suggesting that a women should be allowed an abortion as a human right if they have become pregnant after a rape, an emotive and sensitive set of circumstances, but nonetheless AI currently remains neutral on this position and any decision taken by the membership and organization this year should certainly not be preempted.

All too often people who oppose abortions are accused of denying women their rights, in the case of rape anti-abortion campaigners are slated as being uncaring, brutal and accused of taking a choices away from women; it is even claimed that this stance is somehow complicit on the violence that is perpetrated on women. In fact, those against abortion want to ensure that all women receive all their rights, including the most important: that unborn baby girls (and, of course, boys) get their right to life; with that right comes a lifetime of choices: where and how to live, for example. The so-called pro-choice lobby, campaigns for only one choice for women - a choice of whether or not to end the life of another person - a position that is not logical or moral. It is ironic that on the very day pro-abortion campaigners celebrate equal opportunities for all on IWD, they also seek to deny the opportunity of life for thousands of children. Those opposing abortion, defend a women's right to live and make a lifetime of choices: what could be more "pro-choice"?

It is imperative that AI continues to campaign for human rights for all individuals, regardless of their sex and of their stage in life. Please continue to make representations to your local Amnesty section objecting to any moves that would change the organization's current position on abortion.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Opposition to AI's move could unite Muslims and Christians

Conservative writer and former Reagan administration policy analyst Dinesh D'Souza is receiving criticism from both right and left for his new book The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11. No surprise really as he blames a litany of organizations that he believes supports the liberal lefts (notably some members of Congress, Hollywood, the media and the universities) for 911. Strong stuff, indeed. And while I disagree with many of the sentiments, there is an interesting proposition from Mr D'Souza makes in one of his promotional interviews with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and that is that the opposition to moves to make abortion a human right as advocated by Human Right Watch (and what AI is attempting to do) could actually bring together Muslims and Christians. If successful a worthy double-whammy; imagine: stopping the illogical (and I believe immoral) prospect of a human rights organization advocating abortion AND bringing together the Muslim and Christian worlds.

I have said in previous posts that this is not just a Catholic issue, nor a Christian issue; nor even an Islamic issue; the issue of advocating abortion as a human right is one that people of all faiths and none should be concerned with. Even if you disagree with the morality-based arguments, no compelling argument has been put presented that counteracts the illogicality of the proposal.