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RCs threaten to shun Amnesty on abortion

16 August 2007

by Pat Ashworth

Anti-abortion protesters at a rally in Belfast earlier this year PA

Anti-abortion protesters at a rally in Belfast earlier this year PA

AS THE COUNCIL of Amnesty International meets this week in Mexico, Roman Catholic bishops in England have warned that the support of Catholics worldwide would be “seriously threatened”, if it were to adopt a policy supporting the right to abortion.

Amnesty has always been neutral on the ethics of abortion, but opposes forced abortion. The rape of women in war zones such as Darfur prompted it, in April, after two years’ debate, to support new policies, including: the decriminalisation of abortion; the right to health-care after complications from abortion; and the defence of women’s access to abortion “within reasonable gestational limits, when their health or human rights are in danger”.

The organisation’s stance was interpreted by Cardinal Renato Martino, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, as “promoting abortion rights”. In June, he called for Roman Catholics to withdraw their support: a call reiterated by the US Bishops’ Conference.

The RC Bishop of East Anglia, the Rt Revd Michael Evans, a long-term member of Amnesty, said: “The world needs Amnesty International. It has touched the lives of countless numbers of people . . . Long may it do so — hopefully with the active support of Catholics worldwide. But this will be seriously threatened should Amnesty adopt a policy supporting the right to abortion.”

Amnesty has encouraged the Roman Catholic Church “not to turn away from the suffering women face because of sexual violence”, and urged its leaders “to advocate tolerance and respect for freedom of expression for all human rights’ defenders, including Amnesty International, just as Amnesty International will continue to defend the freedom of religion”.

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