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Monday, August 27, 2007

Man with Tall Hat versus Amnesty International

You may or may not know, but after more than two years of movement-wide debate and hard work, Amnesty International recently decided on a policy related to sexual and reproductive rights. Without stating a position on abortion generally, it said it would campaign for abortion rights in cases of rape, incest or violence, or where the mother's life or health is in danger.

The Pope and his boys now are instructing all Catholics to stop supporting Amnesty. Those guys! What a barrel of fun they are. They'd make good dads I'm sure...

I was involved in the decision-making process here in Canada and we know that we will lose some supporters, those who are opposed to abortion in any circumstances. We have also gained supporters, who wonder how a human rights organization cannot campaign on such a fundamental woman's issue.

Even though it's a grassroots democratic organization, gaining or losing supporters is not the business of Amnesty - working to promote human rights and address grave injustice is.

Here's a terrific article by one of my favourite Canadian journalists - Heather Mallick.

Weigh in if you want to...

Hi Gary
Amnesties changed stance from their previous position of neutrality as I understand it in no way signals a move by the organisation towards recognising abortion as any woman's right, rather the decision refers only to those dire circumstances you mention of rape and life threatening circumstances for the mother.

Although the decision i wouild adjudge was motivated to support women’s freedom and provide a more compassionate response to women in difficult situations of pregnancy' more often that not no real choiuce is avaialable. I refer to the lack of choice when the Mother has no visible means of supporting the unborn child. There seems no other choice than abortion which may injure the heath and dignity of the women at the same time as ending the life of the unborn child.

I understand for instance a growing number of Iraqis -- most of them women and children -- are fleeing their homes to escape increased bloodshed caused by sectarian violence and abortions (although illegal and performed illegally) are increasing dramatically.

Just as the number of world wide refuges rises ~ for the first time in a long while, I ask what choices do many of these people have given their circumstance.

Best wishes
Thanks Lindsay - thoughtful as always. Here's something from Amnesty that explains this policy further.

Since the launch in 2004 of its global campaign to Stop Violence Against Women, AI has exposed widespread injustices, including myriad forms of sexual violence that can lead to unwanted pregnancies. Many women in these circumstances are doubly stigmatized: first as victims of sexual violence and then for being pregnant.

In many countries, women who wish to end unwanted pregnancies resulting from sexual violence have no other option but to resort to unsafe abortions, endangering their lives. For some women, the grim choice is between the risk of an unsafe, illegal abortion and the possibility of imprisonment or being stigmatized for being the victim of sexual violence resulting in a pregnancy.

In many countries, women whose lives are endangered by pregnancy are unable to access legal abortion services. Consequently, women who have had an illegal abortion and face medical complications are unable to access life-saving treatment they need from medical service providers without risking criminal prosecution and imprisonment.
As a human rights organization, AI cannot remain silent in the face of this suffering.
and if interested... here is the Amnesty response to the Vatican
Hi Gary
Thanks for the additional information.
Best wishes
Excellent post, Gary. You must be proud that you played a part in making this happen.
Pope My Ride!!! Idaho has Roman Aspirations!!!

I agree that the right to reproductive liberty and family planning is a right we must work toward, universally,and that violence against women is an issue that Amnesty has really tried to step up on. I understand criticism that Amnesty does not go far enough or perhaps has not, at times, done enough to link the human rights issues with reproduction.

But I also think that they are trying to accomplish goals in such diverse environments and right now I am just relieved that they exist and wish there was a way to be more supportive. They step up where many fall short. Where many wont. Where many cant.

Of course I wish the right to abortion was available to all and understood, but I also wish contraception and sex education and protection from rape etc etc was available to all. I think this is a struggle that will last beyond our lifetimes.

I am hopeful that working to acknowledge one right helps advance others. I try to look at hope in those terms.

Those guys with tall hats! I'm glad Amnesty International has made a stand in favor of women. Ever hear about the Catholics in Seattle that stood throughout every service to counter the patriarchal stance of the church? Once they made the counter stance, almost the entire church was willing to stand through every mass. It didn't change the Pope's mind, but it did a lot to change the mind of American Catholics. One step at a time. Thanks for your stance. :)
You should be proud of your role in this, G.

I'm all for an organization that works to promote human rights and address grave injustice rather than gaining/losing supporters. We need entities like that.
Gary, I just linked to your post..
Good for you and of course, the usual suspects protest, but we need not listen to them but listen to the victims instead..
Great work Gary!
great work..and so interesting...
Thanks all, for your comments.

Women and children take the brunt of human rights abuses worldwide - in conflict situations and in social/cultural settings.

As Charlotte Whitton, the first female mayor in Canada (Ottawa) once said, “Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult.”

Another of her great quotes is:
“Man cannot live by incompetence alone.”

And since we're on a roll, here's one for all of us: “Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you.”
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