Amnesty says abortion stance 'misrepresented'
Mary Fitzgerald The Irish Times
The Irish section of Amnesty International has sought to distance itself from the row sparked by a Vatican cardinal who urged Catholics to stop donating to the human rights group because of its new policy on abortion.
Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, issued the call following a recent decision by Amnesty's executive body to advocate abortion rights for women who have been victims of rape or incest, and women who face serious health risks as a result of their pregnancy.
In a statement the council said there should be "no more Catholic financing of Amnesty International after the organisation's pro-abortion about turn".
The cardinal said the human rights group had betrayed its mission as a result.
Amnesty International denied this and said its policy had been misrepresented. "These [ policy] additions do not promote abortion as a universal right and Amnesty International remains silent on the rights and wrongs of abortion," a statement noted.
"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 consequences of rape and other grave human rights violations," said Kate Gilmore, Amnesty's executive deputy secretary general.
Representatives from the Irish section of Amnesty International issued a statement pointing out the new policy on abortion is optional and allows individual sections to take into account their national context regarding the issue.
"The Irish section of Amnesty International is not, and will not be working on the issue of access to abortion," it read.
Meanwhile, the chairman of Amnesty's Italian branch fears the Vatican's position on the issue could have serious repercussions for the organisation.
"This could be a danger to donations and we are extremely upset about these statements," Paolo Pobbiati said, adding that Amnesty's joint campaigning with Catholic groups could also be in jeopardy.
© 2007 The Irish Times