Members of Amnesty International at a Chicago conference last week were unable to debate the rights’ organization’s controversial draft policy that would support unlimited and international access to abortion as a human right.  And some now say that the organization is deliberately ignoring their point of view on Amnesty’s predetermined road to support for abortion.

At the international level, Amnesty has drafted but not yet adopted a position endorsing and implementing the worldwide decriminalization of abortion. Last April Amnesty International USA made public their position favoring the legalization of abortion.

However, Amnesty’s Midwest Regional Conference in Chicago, which ended on Sunday, refused to reconsider or to discuss that position or the draft policies implementing it.

“If events in Chicago are typical, AI adoption of decriminalization as a worldwide goal seems almost inevitable because many objections to such a position among its non-member supporters, its members, and even its leaders are not reaching the Amnesty higher-ups who will make the final decision,” said AI member and law professor Richard Stith in a statement. Stith, who resides in Indiana, attended the Chicago conference.

“I believe it would be highly unwise for Amnesty international to endorse its draft policy endorsing rights to abortion. Such a right might benefit powerful elites, but it would harm many of our most vulnerable sisters in the developing world,” Stith wrote in an open letter to AI members.

“It would clash head-on with the recognized human right to life of the unborn, and even with Amnesty’s own foundation in universal human rights. Many AI supporters may be alienated not only by the substance of the proposed policy but also by the un-open fashion in which the new policy is being debated.”

“The right to life of the unborn child is explicitly protected by a number of international treaties and national constitutions; fundamental rights to abortion are recognized far less extensively,” Stith continued.

Many pro-life and pro-abortion members have continually urged AI to remain neutral on the abortion issue and presented a resolution to this effect.

In Chicago, the neutrality resolution was voted down by a small “working group” immediately after it was introduced Saturday afternoon.  According to Stith the resolution was rejected without substantive debate, and without time for voters to read it through first. According to a press release, many conference attendees did not know that the resolution would be proposed or that they could vote on it by attending the working group meeting.

Pro-abortion AI members have argued in favor of the neutrality resolution on the basis that the policy, if adopted, could lead to loss in membership.

“Our death penalty abolition efforts could suffer, as some of our most crucial allies oppose executions as part of a comprehensive position in support of the right to life,” wrote pro-abortion AI members Angie Hougas and Carolyn Coglianese in their resolution.

The draft policy statement decrimnializning abortion, for possible adoption in 2007, was made available with a questionnaire requesting feedback. The draft policy supports the right to sex-selection abortions and abortions for “potential disability status of the fetus.”

The questionnaire asks whether members agree decriminalization of abortion in all cases or only “decriminalization except for gestational limits.”

Meeting with AIUSA national executives Saturday morning, regional Amnesty leaders expressed chagrin that they had not previously been informed of the existence of the survey, though its deadline is Dec. 1.

A two-hour “Policy Discussion” of “Sexual and Reproductive Rights” was scheduled for late Saturday, but its accompanying description explained that “participants will not be debating the potential policy/policies,” but rather “AI’s discussion process.”