.- Seventy-four U.S. congressmen on Monday urged Amnesty International to remain neutral on the issue of abortion, saying that a pro-abortion stance would damage the group’s credibility as a human rights organization.
Amnesty International will consider taking a stance in favor of universal access to abortion in cases of rape, incest or saving a woman's life at its August 2007 meeting.
New Jersey Republican Chris Smith led the congressmen in writing a letter to Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty International USA and was the lead speaker at a press conference Monday.
The letter states, in part, "We believe that the killing of an unborn child by abortion can never be construed to be a human right…Every child -- born or unborn -- deserves protection and to have his or her human rights secured and protected."
Deirdre McQuade, director of planning and information for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, joined Smith at the press conference.
McQuade reiterated objections to the proposal that Bishop William Skylstad, president of the USCCB, made in a Sept. 15 letter to AI.
“Amnesty has traditionally served as a courageous voice for the voiceless and ignored populations,” McQuade said. “It should not now undermine its own mission by, in essence, siding against millions of voiceless human beings. The right to life itself is fundamental. It is the precondition of all other human rights, and its integrity depends on being acknowledged for every member of the human family regardless of race, age, gender, condition, or stage of development.”
McQuade noted that USCCB has worked with AI on efforts to end the death penalty in the United States, in anti-apartheid advocacy in South Africa and in opposition to government-sanctioned death squads in Central America.
“If Amnesty International were to assert abortion as a human right, it would inevitably create a rift with its Catholic members and alienate many other persons and organizations for whom the right to life is foundational in the struggle for justice,” McQuade said.
"We believe that the killing of an unborn child by abortion can never be construed to be a human right," the letter states. "Every child -- born or unborn -- deserves protection and to have his or her human rights secured and protected."
In a release issued at the same news conference, AI pledged to continue debating the issue until it comes to a vote at its international council meeting in Mexico next year, reported the Cybercast News Service.
"Amnesty International's policy debate is a response to the compelling circumstances of women on whose behalf we work," the statement said, "and it is a continuation of other policy decisions on reproductive rights. Specifically, the organization has long opposed forced contraception, forced sterilization and forced abortion."
The group said it is considering adopting a position on abortion because "tens of thousands of women die annually from unsafe abortions, and many more suffer severe consequences that erode their health and quality of life."
"As a human rights organization, AI cannot remain silent in the face of such suffering and injustice," the statement noted.