Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Vatican takes aim at Amnesty International on abortion

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I realize that the Roman Catholic Church is "pro-life," which is to say, vehemently anti-abortion, no matter what, but I'm not so sure it's such a great idea -- given a) its own long history on the wrong side of human rights, and b) its more recent concern with human rights, including opposition to the death penalty -- to go after Amnesty International for promoting abortion choice.

And that is precisely what the Church is doing. As the BBC is reporting, "[t]he Vatican has urged all Catholics to stop donating money to Amnesty International". This is nothing if not counter-productive.

In its defence, Amnesty is claiming that it promotes choice, not universal abortion rights, which is fair, if unclear, but of course the Church is absolutist in its stance on abortion -- and this includes opposing abortion even in extreme cases (rape, incest). The Church points to what it calls Amnesty's "pro-abortion about-turn," but Amnesty's deputy secretary general, Kate Gilmore was right to argue that the "Church, through a misrepresented account of [Amnesty's] position on selective aspects of abortion, is placing in peril work on human rights".

Evidently, though, anti-abortion absolutism, even when combined with misrepresentation, as here, is more important to the Church -- or at least to the Vatican, to be more precise -- than Amnesty's important work on human rights. Would it not have been better for the Church to criticize Amnesty's position without going so far as to call on all Catholics to stop donating money to it? Given that Amnesty and the Church now have so much in common, and can do so much together with respect to human rights, why endanger the noble work that Amnesty is doing?

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