Amnesty International Urged to Protect All Life

Bishops of England and Wales Send Appeal

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LONDON, AUG. 18, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The bishops of England and Wales appealed to Amnesty International to maintain its neutral stance on abortion in a letter sent to the organization.



The press office of the episcopal conference of England and Wales published the appeal Aug. 1.

London-based Amnesty International, founded by Catholic lawyer Peter Benenson in 1961, has maintained a neutral position regarding abortion since its foundation. The organization is currently conducting an internal debate on whether they should promote the right to abortion.

In their appeal, the bishops state that they understand Amnesty's concern for "a woman's right to access to abortion in the case of rape, sexual assault, incest and risk to her life," but clarifies that although the "former may seem to be a compassionate act toward a woman who has suffered violence and a deeply traumatic experience," in fact "to take the life of the child in her womb, through another act of violence, can never be justified."

Furthermore, the bishops added, "there is evidence to show that women can suffer severe emotional distress following an abortion."

Most vulnerable

"At the heart of Amnesty's work there has always been a particular concern for the most vulnerable. The Catholic Church shares this concern. That is why in many parts of the world the Catholic Church is to be found at the forefront of the struggle for social justice and human rights," the appeal states.

Therefore, "any comprehensive campaign to 'Protect the Human' must include a solid commitment to protect the human rights of the unborn child, among the most defenseless of all humans," the prelates said.

The statement continues: "We are far from being alone in believing that the unborn have rights. In its preamble, the 1989 U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child quotes the 1959 U.N. Declaration of the Rights of the Child: 'Whereas the child, by reason of his or her mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth.'

Amnesty's "original mandate remains as vital today as it ever was," the statement said, "If this mandate is to be further extended to cover all human rights, we urge Amnesty International to be comprehensive in its campaign to 'Protect the Human,' to include, therefore, the unborn as among the weakest and most vulnerable, and so remain true to its original vision."

Losing support

Emphasizing that support for "removing the rights of the unborn child" is not "consistent with Amnesty's core values," the bishops also warn that such "a policy change would, in the eyes of many, compromise Amnesty as a trusted advocate for human rights."

Moreover, "such a decision would almost certainly divide its membership and undermine the vital work for which it was founded and for which it is justly renowned," they said.

Bishop Michael Evans of East Anglia, a member of Amnesty International, said in statements to the press that the charity risked losing Catholic support of their vital work if they proceeded with this proposal.

"It would be difficult for Catholics and many others to continue as members of an organization," he said, "which did not include the unborn child in its campaign to 'Protect the Human.'"