Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Acting Globally! Thinking Locally?

The human rights organization Amnesty International maintains 2.2 million members in more than 150 countries and regions. A few of the organization’s campaigns include the death penalty, immigrant rights, arms control, countering terror with justice and stopping violence against women. One thing that has set Amnesty apart from other human rights groups is its refusal to accept money from any partisan group (including political parties and churches). The purpose of this is to bring a diverse group of individuals into the discussion of what’s best for humanity in general, despite personal differences.

Because of Amnesty’s goal to be all-inclusive, they did not actively declare their stance on abortion for forty-six years (1961-2007). The increasing use of rape as a weapon of war in several countries is what lead Amnesty to ultimately take a stance on abortion “within reasonable gestational limits” for women in cases of rape, incest or violence, or where the pregnancy jeopardizes a mother’s life or health. Amnesty described that “women and girls are being attacked, not only to dehumanize the women themselves but also to humiliate, punish, control, inflict fear and displace women and to persecute the community to which they belong”. In response to Amnesty speaking out, many long time advocates of the organization, including the Catholic Church, expressed their dissatisfaction with their decision and encouraged members to cut off all donations and support immediately. Amnesty issued a statement clarifying that they are a “movement to protect citizens including the believer but we do not impose beliefs. Ours is a movement dedicated to upholding human rights, not specific theologies. Our purpose invokes the law and the state, not God. It means that sometimes the secular framework of human rights that Amnesty International upholds will converge neatly with the standpoints of certain faith based communities; sometimes it will not”. As an advocate for the pro-choice movement, Amnesty’s decision to openly include and support women’s choice as a human right makes absolute sense. But there is still a bitter taste in my mouth from their statements.

AI’s executive deputy secretary-general, Kate Gilmore described, “[Our] position is not for abortion as a right but for women’s rights to be free of fear, threat and coercion as they manage all consequences of rape and other grave human rights violations”. How can women be free of fear, threat and coercion if abortion is not a right? I understand that as an organization Amnesty must work hard to not exclude potential or existing supporters, but isn’t only supporting abortion within “reasonable gestational limits” excluding a large group of individuals, mainly women? News channels, YouTube and other media sources constantly show clips of women entering abortion clinics with anti-choice crowds surrounding them trying to invoke fear and declaring threats. With the recent death of Dr. Tiller, I believe it is time to take a step further and support women and their right to choose, no matter the reason why.

-Mackenzie Love, Summer Intern

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