the human rights organization, Amnesty International discusses a new
proposal which would lead to widespread support and consideration of
abortion as a “human right” a cacophony of voices have come out
criticizing the plan and urging the group to stay true to its mandate
of protecting the weak and defenseless.
One of those voices is Dr. Richard Stith, a law professor at Indiana’s Valparaiso University and an international voice on ethics and human dignity.
In a personal letter sent to Amnesty International, Dr. Stith wrote that “The essential problem [with the new plan] is that the world is increasingly divided over whether such positions would be steps toward or away from universal human rights.”
“That is, state enforcement of abortion rights would not just be something that conservatives might object to—like support of gay rights, for example—but rather would undercut your credibility with many of your natural constituencies,” he wrote.
He stressed that “Many would see you as coming out against certain fundamental human rights, namely the universal right to life as well as the right of conscience-based refusal to participate in violence, something that could not easily be said regarding gay rights or almost any other cause AI might wish to support.”
Highlighting the universality of the problem which, he said, extends far beyond liberal/conservative lines, Dr. Stith wrote that “Many people on the Left not only consider abortion rights an anti-communitarian expression of extreme individualism, a claiming of private ownership of the next generation, but also see rights-talk…as hostile to care and concern for the needs of women.”
In a form letter, sent to in response to constituents questioning the potential policy, Amnesty International said that “members throughout the movement felt that AI's work to stop violence against women and promote women's human rights necessitates that we consider whether a more comprehensive policy on sexual and reproductive rights, potentially encompassing certain abortion-related issues, would enable AI to be more effective in these areas.”
To this, Dr. Smith cites Catherine MacKinnon, who writes about the way “privacy” language often “thrusts women back to private oppression (where males will decide to abort their wanted children) and away from public equality.”
He also says that the “individual freedom to abort is in reality a freedom for the powerful more easily to oppress the weak—especially in the third world. Only after women have achieved true equality could it be argued that abortion would be truly their own right rather than that of their male oppressors.”
In short, Dr. Stith believes that “Any push for abortion by AI at this time could undercut [their] crucial credibility in the struggle to bring violence against women and children out into the open—as well as to maximize support for your core mission of support for political prisoners.”
“Unless you think that your other aims are so well-secured that they no longer need much assistance, which I would respectfully consider absurd,” he warned, “Amnesty International would be well advised not to embark upon this new endeavor.”