National Catholic Register


Amnesty’s Fall

Amnesty International was founded by a Catholic convert. Now leading Church voices warn Catholics against supporting the organization. Our suggestion: Why not write letters to Amnesty International, demanding that they honor the human rights of the unborn?

BY The Editors

July 1-7, 2007 Issue | Posted 6/19/07 at 9:00 AM


Amnesty International has fallen a long, long way from the high perch it once occupied. Now, the human rights organization that did so much good for prisoners of conscience is reduced to baldly misrepresenting facts in a desperate attempt to escape the consequences of its own actions.

The moral of the story: Abortion is the opposite of King Midas. It corrupts everything it touches.

Amnesty International was founded in the early 1960s by a Catholic convert, Peter Benenson. Like its passionate, eclectic founder, the organization led with its heart and followed an unpredictable trajectory. Some have called it too anti-establishment. Others have called it too politically correct. But there’s no denying Amnesty’s success.

If the pen is mightier than the sword, then Amnesty International organized a formidable army in the 1970s and 1980s. It disseminated the names of prisoners of conscience and the addresses of their captors. Those were the targets. Then it mobilized professional people, shut-ins, college students and stay-at-home moms — anybody they could find — to write letters.

It was a unique kind of activist organization. You didn’t just become a benefactor to Amnesty International; you became a direct participant in the effort to free prisoners of conscience.

But from the 1990s to today, that mission shifted. It may have started with the rock concerts in the late 1980s. As Amnesty raised more money, it began to look less like a scrappy street fighter for the little guy and more like the bloated international corporations in the grievance business.

And, as U.N. watcher Austin Ruse told the Register, the organization also began unofficially favoring the idea that the right to life isn’t a human right, and that the right to kill unborn children is.

In April, that stance became official.

Amnesty International became a formal abortion promoter, advocating for the right to kill unborn children — not just in cases where the mother had been the victim of rape, but in cases where the mother’s health or life were in danger. Legally, of course, that means they promote any abortion for any reason — because pregnancy is always related to the health and future life of the mother.

Last week, the Register featured an exclusive interview with Cardinal Renato Martino calling on Catholics to pull support from Amnesty International now that it has become an opponent of the fundamental human right, the right to life.

A follow-up press release from Cardinal Martino’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace received worldwide press attention along with the Register. Amnesty International was quick to respond.

To the organization’s great shame, Kate Gilmore decided not to address the real concerns former supporters had, but to obfuscate the issue instead. Gilmore is the executive deputy secretary general of Amnesty International.

“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,” she said.

Her words flatly misstate Amnesty International’s policy that, as quoted on the organization’s website, isn’t limited to rape.

“Women must have access to safe and legal abortion services where continuation of pregnancy poses a risk to their life or grave risk to their health,” it says, using the loophole language that allows abortion at any time for any reason.

Newspapers like the UK’s Daily Mail repeated the misinformation from Amnesty International’s press release without correcting it. But even readers who were thus misinformed reacted negatively to Amnesty’s rebirth as an abortion activist group.

“So rape victims in Darfur are stoned and the best solution that Amnesty can offer is abortion?!” wrote one London reader of the Daily Mail. “Why is it that the only solution offered to women who are poor, abused or stigmatized, if pregnant outside of marriage, is to end the life of their baby? I thought we were supposed to be liberated.”

Amnesty tried to argue that opposition to abortion is “theological.” They know better. The right to life is a universally recognized human right — and our understanding of unborn life is no longer what it was in the Middle Ages. We all have children, nephews or nieces whose first photos were taken in utero. There is no longer any doubt about what abortion is: killing.

That’s why abortion is King Midas in reverse. It corrupts everything it touches.

In order to support abortion, its advocates must first lie to themselves. Once committed to a lie, they will have a hard time telling the truth to the rest of us.

Write to Amnesty International and tell them to have mercy on those who are being unfairly denied their rights: the unborn. Find links to the appropriate addresses at: