Abortion Rights and Amnesty International

Abortion Rights and Amnesty International

Amnesty International is considering taking on abortion rights as part of its portfolio. A good summary and critique of the development can be found in this article in the center-right Spectator. The prospect is causing chagrin among conservatives and Catholic members of Amnesty. (The organization was founded by an English Catholic lawyer in 1961.)

The controversy shows how important Amnesty is as a political and international legal actor. Conservative forces, including the Vatican (another superpower NGO), understand that Amnesty has heft, and that pro-life efforts at the international level will be made more challenging if Amnesty takes up the pro-choice gauntlet. (For a study of Amnesty’s impact on the evolution of modern human rights, see Ann Marie Clark’s Diplomacy of Conscience; another profile of the organization is on Dan Drezner’s summer reading list, though I have yet to get a hold of it myself.) It also illuminates the possibility of a kind of democracy within NGOs – the issue is percolating up from AI’s national sections (Canada’s was the most recent to jump on board), and will be decided at the an international council meeting in August 2007. (A copy of Amnesty’s fairly refined governing statute can be found here.)

If Amnesty does opt to advocate abortion rights, it will be interesting to see what sort of hit it takes in its membership numbers, and if its credibility suffers on other, more traditional rights campaigns. The episode may demonstrate accountability mechanisms that NGOs face outside formal political structures.

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Tobias Thienel

Some nit-picking: the Vatican is not really an NGO. The Vatican is a state under international (and domestic) law, and therefore governmental.

However, the Vatican as such is not very active on the international scene. The Holy See, on the other hand, is. The two are quite separate entities. The Holy See is not a state, and therefore – in a sense – an NGO, but it is a traditional subject of international law.

The division of functions between the Vatican and the Holy See can be a bit murky at times, but it does hold true as a general proposition.

Apologies for this bout of pedantry. I realize that this is not made any better by the fact that I have done this before, in response to a post by Roger Alford. I am, so it would appear, a serial offender…

Joe's Dartblog

Amnesty International Considering Adding Abortion to Roster

Peter Spiro, writing at Opinio Juris provides some details and (if I am not reading too much into his post) some support….

Rune C. Olwen
Rune C. Olwen

I cannot find out, whether AI has a position on suicide, because all search machines are full of “s-bombing”!

But I expected that there are still some people who attemted suicide and failed, and are thrown in jail or into the loony bin because of that. These people should be on the AI agenda, just as women who have been forced to an abortion(often so that they can be executed while the law of many countries forbid executing pregnant women). And women who fight abortionforbidding laws? Do we not have any rights? And women who obtained illegal abortions? Must we be silent, and have no longer any human rights?

AI has the role to protect people who are fighting for their human rights, and this is the first consideration.

If we (women) cannot fight for self-determination, we are no humans, but breeding machines, simple and clear.