06 Jul 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.