On UN World Freedom of the Press day, here's Amnesty International USA's response to some anticipated bad press (with a couple of comments)
Media Response Letter on Amnesty International’s Policy on Sexual and Reproductive Rights April, 2007
Note: This letter is only to be sent to newspapers as a response to articles, editorials or letters to the editor that are critical of the new sexual and reproductive rights policy; it is not to be sent proactively. (oops!!)
To The Editor: Violence against women is pervasive worldwide. (Yes, this is dreadful, but this is not the issue here) In conflict zones from Bosnia to Sudan to Guatemala, rape has been used as a weapon of war. (And how many Amnesty International members and good thinking people do not abhor this? Again, this is clouding the issue.) The World Health Organization estimates that one woman in five will be the victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime. (Again, absolutely dreadful, but not the point here. This tactic of trying to make out that those people who oppose abortion do not care for protecting women is low - and wrong) Women who are raped suffer additional abuse and isolation. In some countries abortion is a crime with severe penalties. Recently in Nigeria, a woman who miscarried was accused of aborting and threatened with the death penalty. (Of course this was awful for the woman involved; many of us campaigned on her behalf and she was released. AI campaigns vigorously against capital punishment anyway, so why use this as an example to excuse the change in the abortion stance ?) . In many countries, women suffer terrible consequences when access to medical treatment is blocked. (Everyone should have access to medical treatment, that is not an issue. But not all medical procedures are conducive to human rights) Every year, 70,000 women died from unsafe abortions and another five million suffer often debilitating complications. (This is tragic, but there is a 100% mortality rate for the unborn child as a result of every abortion - why is a human rights organization not addressing this issue).
As a human rights organization, Amnesty International cannot remain silent in the face of this suffering. (So why does the human rights organization feel it can remain silent in the face of the suffering of the unborn, defenseless child?) The severe violence and dire circumstances women face inspired Amnesty International to initiate a global campaign to Stop Violence against Women through which we advocate for every woman’s right to be free from inhuman treatment, cruelty, coercion, discrimination or violence. (This should be a right for everyone - man, woman, child, born and unborn. Why has AI chosen to limit these rights to a particular group with this policy?) This campaign has led us to defend a woman’s right to be free from any form of coercion, discrimination or violence as she makes and puts into effect informed decisions concerning reproduction, including decisions in relation to the continuation or termination of pregnancy(The campaign has not seen AI protecting the right of a female or male child's right to life or protecting them from the violence of abortion). In particular, we call for protection of women who seek an abortion as a consequence of rape or incest or who are facing grave risk to their health or loss of life. (How can this be a logical stance for a human rights organization to take? If you argue that abortion is a right, then why would you limit it to particular circumstances? Of course this might make it slightly more palatable for your membership if you planned to widen the policy at a later date and was introducing this policy as a mere stepping stone.) We support the right of women to receive medical treatment for complications arising from abortion, (but ignore the "complication" of abortion to the unborn child; the removal of that most basic of their human rights: the right to life) and we oppose sending women and their health care providers to jail for abortion.
Amnesty International takes no position on whether a woman should have an abortion under any of these circumstances but instead seeks to assure that abortion services are safe and accessible to prevent grave human rights violations that can result if women are denied this option. (Abortion is a grave human rights violation. Would AI really accept an argument that it should drop its campaign against the death penalty and instead campaign for a "humane" method of execution; one that does not result in complications which would cause the victim too much suffering, such as the complications that have been associated with the electric chair or gas chamber? I doubt it, yet this is the argument it tries to present here.)
Name Amnesty International USA