By John-Henry Westen

NEW YORK, April 25, 2006 ( – Amnesty International (AI) has proposed actively fighting against the right to life for unborn children by using its resources to promoteÂa so-called ‘right to abortion’. In proposed changes to its Sexual and Reproductive Rights Policy, the organization has asked members to comment on proposals around AI’s abortion position by May 20, 2006.

InÂits Sexual and Reproductive Rights (SRR) Consultation Kit, AI includes a “Draft Policy statement on Sexual and Reproductive Rights.” The policy includes the demand that “Governments must refrain from denying or limiting equal access to sexual and reproductive health services.” Adding ominously, “they must act with due diligence to punish abuses of sexual and reproductive rights by private persons, organizations and other non-state actors.”

The draft policy also seeks to hamper the right of health care workers to disassociate from abortion services.“The right of individual health care professionals to object on grounds of conscience to providing certain information and services does not absolve them or the health care system for which they work from taking immediate steps to ensure that the necessary treatment is given without delay,” says the draft.

In another document reviewing “key” issues regarding sexual and reproductive rights, AI quotes a UN representative who suggests denying abortion constitutes “violence against women”. The review states, “Former UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Radhika Coomaraswamy, has stated that ‘acts deliberately restraining women from using contraception or from having an abortion constitute violence against women by subjecting women to excessive pregnancies and childbearing against their will, resulting in increased and preventable risks of maternal mortality and morbidity.’”

The AI International Council is already decidedly in favour of promoting abortion as can be deduced from the language they use. The International Council calls for a consultation on the question of abortion, which “should enable AI to take an informed decision as to the organization’s position – should it choose to do so – on the question of whether a woman’s right to physical and mental integrity includes her right to terminate her pregnancy, subject to reasonable limitations, and of whether abortion should therefore be legal, safe and accessible to all women.”

The plan is to decide by the end of 2006 on adopting a position on three aspects of abortion:
  – “decriminalization of abortion”;
  – “access to quality services for the management of complications arising from abortion”;
  – “legal, safe and accessible abortion in cases of rape, sexual assault, incest, and risk to a woman’s life”

The document notes that “all other decisions related to possible AI positions on the issue of abortion” would be taken to the 2007 International Council Meeting.

AI then asks its members the following questions:
Level 1
  1. Do you have specific comments, reactions or questions about the Draft Policy statement on Sexual and Reproductive Rights?
Level 2
  1. Should Amnesty International adopt a policy on any of the three aspects of abortion or should we maintain our current policy (which states: Amnesty International has not adopted a position on whether or not women have a right to choose to terminate unwanted pregnancies…)?
Level 3
2. Should the International Executive postpone any decisions on the three aspects of abortion until the fall, next spring or the next International Council meeting, to provide more opportunity for us to give input?

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