WASHINGTON, September 18, 2006 ( – The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has warned Amnesty International that a proposal to abandon its neutral stance on abortion for a policy of advocating for abortion as a “human right” will threaten vulnerable unborn children and jeopardize the organization’s excellent record as a champion for human rights.

“To abandon this long held position would be a tragic mistake, dividing human rights advocates and diverting Amnesty International from its central and urgent mission of defending human rights as outlined in the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights,” Bishop William S. Skylstad, president of USCCB, wrote in a September 12 letter to Irene Khan, the Secretary General of Amnesty International.

Noting that USCCB has worked with Amnesty International on a range of issues – most recently on a campaign to end the death penalty in the United States – Bishop Skylstad urged the organization not to “dilute or divert its mission by adopting a position that many see as fundamentally incompatible with a full commitment to human rights and that will deeply divide those working to defend human rights.”

“If Amnesty International were to advocate for abortion as a human right, it would risk diminishing its own well-deserved moral credibility,” Bishop Skylstad said. “It certainly would most likely divide its own members, many of whom are Catholic, and others who defend the rights of unborn children.”

Abortion is not considered a human right in international law, Bishop Skylstad points out, and both the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the recently adopted United Nations Declaration on Human Cloning uphold the principal of the dignity of the unborn child.

“The right to life itself is fundamental – it is ‘the right to have rights,’ and its integrity depends on being acknowledged in absolutely every member of the human family regardless of race, age or condition,” Bishop Skylstad said. “This is no peculiarity of Catholic teaching, but an insight of the ‘natural law’ tradition of human rights that has produced so many advances in upholding human dignity.”