The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Amnesty International faces loss of Vatican funding over new pro choice stance.

In the wake of its call for the decriminalization of abortion last April, human
rights organization Amnesty International faced the general rebuke of the Roman Catholic Church. Now, with Amnesty showing no signs of retracting its decision to remain pro-choice after this August’s conference in Mexico City, Vatican officials are urging Catholics to stop funding the organization.

“To selectively justify abortion, even in the cases of rape, is to define the innocent child within the woman as an enemy, a ‘thing’ that must be destroyed,” said Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, to the National Catholic Reporter. “They think of abortion as an act of violence, and therefore it fits in with their opposition to violence-which is an internally coherent logic,” said Jane Redmont, assistant professor of religious studies.

American Catholic organizations, such as the United States Conference for Catholic Bishops, are not any more charmed than the Vatican by Amnesty International’s decision. In fact, the group’s president, Bishop William S. Skylstad, preemptively issued a statement in July to discourage Amnesty International from maintaining its stance for this month’s conference in Mexico City.

“The action of the executive council undermines Amnesty’s longstanding moral credibility, diverts its mission, divides its own members (many of whom are Catholic or defend the rights of unborn children) and jeopardizes Amnesty’s support by people in many nations, cultures and religions,” said Skylstad to the Catholic News Service (CNS).

Yet in its defense, Amnesty insists that it is not specifically endorsing abortion rights on demand, but rather seeks to protect women’s reproductive rights in countries where rape and sexual violence are employed as weapons of war.

“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 the consequences of rape and other grave human rights violations,” said Amnesty International’s Executive Deputy Secretary-General Kate Gilmore in a press release to BBC News.

Not all Catholics are in agreement with the Vatican’s stance. Much of Amnesty’s support comes from Catholic women’s rights groups in Mexico City, a place where progressive politics are consistently taking flight (a civil union bill was passed in the city last March) despite its conservative Catholic heritage. It is perhaps for this reason that Amnesty International chose the Mexican capital as the setting for its biennial leadership gathering this August, where the finer points of its commitment to women’s reproductive rights were discussed.

“Because so many women are suffering, especially those who live in countries where (abortion) is not decriminalized, they are forced to have clandestine, unsafe abortions; the more voices that speak up calling it an injustice, the better,” said Mariana Winocur, spokesperson for the Mexico City pro- choice organization Information Group on Reproductive Choice to WeNews. “It’s good for social justice, for women’s health and for women’s rights.”

With about 68,000 women dying annually worldwide because of failed abortion procedures, this move of Amnesty International ‘s will ensure that more women receive the right attention, especially in countries such as Darfur where rape victims are often alienated and shamed by their community.

“This helps close the gap between women’s rights activists and human rights activists. The position that Amnesty International has taken is very important in this sense,” said Maria Consuelo Mejia, executive director of Mexico City pro-choice group Catholics for the Right to Decide, in a press release to BBC News.

Nonetheless, with the loss of the support from one of the world’s largest, wealthiest organizations, Amnesty International may be facing more of a struggle in its fight to protect human rights now than ever before.

“The problem with anything involving the issue of abortion,” said Redmont, “is that it is always very, very hard to resolve from a human rights perspective.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

The Guilfordian intends for this area to be used to foster healthy, thought-provoking discussion. Comments are expected to adhere to our standards and to be respectful and constructive. As such, we do not permit the use of profanity, foul language, personal attacks, or the use of language that might be interpreted as libelous. Comments are reviewed and must be approved by a moderator to ensure that they meet these standards. The Guilfordian does not allow anonymous comments, and requires a valid email address. The email address will not be displayed but will be used to confirm your comments.
All The Guilfordian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *