Vatican Criticizes Newly Unveiled Amnesty Abortion Policy

For many years, the Vatican has been an ally to Amnesty International, a human rights organization that was founded by a Catholic layman. However, Amnesty International recently reversed its neutral abortion policy and adopted a policy that supports access to abortion service for women whose health and human rights are at risk.  The Vatican responded promptly, stating that the new policy promoted abortion rights. Cardinal Martino, head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, urged Catholics to cease all financial support for the human rights group.1

Amnesty’s new abortion policy defends “the right of women to sexual and reproductive integrity in the face of grave human rights violations.”2 In addition, the human rights organization favors access to abortion for women who are victims of sexual assault or incest, or pregnancies that threaten a woman’s health.3

The Vatican asserts that Amnesty International is enforcing a policy that encourages the universal right to an abortion, however, the organization itself maintains that it does not hold a position with regard to the moral issues surrounding abortion and that its new policy merely strengthens the reproductive rights of women who are victims of rape and other human rights violations.4 Amnesty’s new policy also advocates for women who are unfairly penalized by imprisonment or criminal fines for having an abortion.

The Vatican believes life begins at the moment of conception, and is strongly opposed to any policy that would result in the termination of a pregnancy.  In an interview published on June 12, 2007, Cardinal Martino stated that, by upholding the policy, Amnesty “betrayed its mission” to protect human rights around the world.5  Martino said that abortion is “never justifiable” and describes any kind of abortion as the killing of an innocent child.6

Amnesty said that the Catholic Church has a “misrepresented account” of its newly adopted abortion policy and that this misrepresentation harms human rights efforts.7 Other non-governmental organizations have weighed in on this issue.  The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, suggested that Cardinal Martino’s statement imposes an idea of human rights that is based on religion and which may be in conflict with “universal human rights norms.”8  The Observatory has requested that Cardinal Martino’s statement be overturned.

References

  1. “Vatican Urges to End Amnesty” BBC, 14 June 2007, accessed 24 June 2007,
    <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6750887.stm>.
  2. Amnesty International, “Amnesty International Defends Access to Abortion for Women at Risk,” Press Release Published 14 June 2007, accessed 24 June 2007,
    <http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/engPOL300122007?open&of=eng-200>.
  3.   Chinyere Amalu, “Amnesty International unveils policy on abortion,” Vanguard, accessed 25 June 2007, <http://www.vanguardngr.com/articles/2002/features/health/gh612062007.html>.
  4. Amnesty International, “Amnesty International Defends Access to Abortion for Women at Risk,” Press Release Published 14 June 2007, accessed 24 June 2007,
    <http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/engPOL300122007?open&of=eng-200>.
  5. Tom McFeely, “No Amnesty For the Unborn,” National Catholic Register, accessed 25 June 2007, <http://ncregister.com/site/article/2904>.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Philip Pullella, “Amnesty rejects Vatican criticism on abortion,” Reuters, accessed 24 June 2007, <http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L13470177.htm>.
  8. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, “Cardinal Renato Martino’s statement puts activities of Amnesty International, and of all NGOs defending sexual and reproductive rights, at risk” Press Release Published 22 June 2007, accessed 24 June 2007, <http://www.protectionline.org/Activities-of-all-NGOs-at-risk.html>.

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