Abortion decision could cost Amnesty International Catholic support
A recent decision by the international human rights watch dog Amnesty International to support women's access to abortion in the aftermath of rape could cost the organization the moral and financial support of Catholics, according to a Vatican official.
“I believe that, if in fact Amnesty International persists in this course of action, individuals and Catholic organizations must withdraw their support, because, in deciding to promote abortion rights, AI has betrayed its mission,” Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said in an e-mail interview with the National Catholic Register.
According to NCR, the abortion policy has already cost Amnesty International the support of one long-time Catholic backer: Jesuit Father Daniel Berrigan.
Said Berrigan, “One cannot support an organization financially or even individually that is contravening something very serious in our ethic.”
Until this year, Amnesty International was officially neutral on the issue of abortion. In April, the group’s executive board decided to drop that neutrality. Now, the group will promote access to abortion for women who are victims of rape and for women whose life or health is endangered by pregnancy.
That discussion about the new abortion policy began more than two years ago, after Amnesty International became involved in a global campaign to stop violence against women. AN AI official said that in the context of that initiative Amnesty International officials talked to a lot of women who had been raped and wanted access to abortions as a consequence.
In the NCR interview, Cardinal Martino said that Amnesty International’s effort to justify abortion in the case of rape and threats to the mother’s health is morally indefensible.
“The Church teaches that it is never justifiable to kill an innocent human life. Abortion is murder,” he said. “To selectively justify abortion, even in the cases of rape, is to define the innocent child within the womb as an enemy, a ‘thing’ that must be destroyed. How can we say that killing a child in some cases is good and in other cases it is evil?”
According to NCR, Berrigan emphatically agreed with Martino’s statement that individual Catholics and Catholic organizations should withdraw all support for Amnesty International if it doesn’t reverse its decision to advocate for abortion rights.
“I’ve supported over the years Amnesty’s take on prisoners of conscience around the world, and have been a member of Amnesty,” he said. “And I was quite shaken by this change.”
In a response to Martino's comments, an AI official denied that the organization ever received any direct support from the Vatican. "Millions of people around the world of many faiths and creeds donate to Amnesty International as individuals," said AI spokesperson Kate Gilmore. "Among them are welcome donations from members of the Catholic faith. We hope that Amnesty InternationaI's work against torture, against the death penalty and for the proper administration of justice including for women and girls will continue to draw active support from people of conviction the world over."
According to the AI statement: "Defending the right of women to sexual and reproductive integrity in the face of grave human rights violations, Amnesty International recently incorporated a focus on selected aspects of abortion into its broader policy on sexual and reproductive rights. These additions do not promote abortion as a universal right and Amnesty International remains silent on the rights and wrongs of abortion."
"Amnesty International’s position is not for abortion as a right but for women’s human rights to be free of fear, threat and coercion as they manage all consequences of rape and other grave human rights violations," said Gilmore.