Friday, May 11, 2007

Time for Amnesty to come clean over secret abortion policy

When forced to address the abortion issue, AI representatives have often attempted to package their decision to advocate having an abortion as a "human right" with issues around protecting women from violence (AI has never quite explained just how abortion does this - isn't killing an unborn child a pretty violent act?). Anyway, by taking this approach they have thus far succeeded in avoiding all the difficult questions that adopting this policy and their subsequent attempts to cover it up raise.

Now that Amnesty International's leaders have apparently been successful in imposing their wishes on the organization, it is beholden on them to come clean about:

  • the real consultation process and why it was so biased;
  • why they failed to inform staff about the adoption of the policy;
  • why they were apparently quite happy to mislead AI members about the adoption of the policy;
  • why the policy was adopted before the slated date and why AI continued to say that a consultation was still ongoing, when the final decision had already been taken;
  • and, most importantly, provide a proper explanation as to why a human rights organization feels it can morally and logically adopt this policy.

On the last point, if AI is to justify its new position on abortion with any ounce of credibility it must provide the evidence of where and when life begins, for if it really believes in human rights, it must identify at what point a person exists to claim those rights. I suspect that this will be pretty problematic for the organization as, until now, no-one has been able to prove at what point a person exists (once we get 100% proof of this, then the abortion debate is over).

Given this lack of evidence, logically there are two positions that can be adopted: you either understand that you cannot determine the exact point of time at which a human inherits personhood and so accept that they should have rights (including the right to life) from the earliest possible moment that individual could potentially become a person; or you take a view that an individual becomes a person at some indeterminable point and set an arbitrary point at which human rights should be bestowed, knowing that by doing so there is a significant risk that many individuals may be denied their human rights.

So the problem for AI is to explain why it has taken the latter approach and adopted a position it knows very well could deny human rights to millions of individuals. Why the approach may be logically consistent for an organization with no interest in human rights (we'll leave the moral question out of this at the moment), AI has to convince us how this approach that is likely to deny human rights to many is consistent with its human rights work?

This is difficult question for a human rights organization to answer with any credibility, which is why it has been avoided. But it is no longer acceptable for AI bosses to hide behind the specious and illogical excuse for introducing this policy of stopping violence against women.

Come on, Amnesty Come Clean!