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Amnesty International [AI] USA has adopted a new policy supporting a “right” to abortion, but “Not to be made public”, according to reports this week carried by First Things and Consistent Life.

First Things reported on a buried policy statement unearthed from the members-only, restricted-content page of AI’s US website.

The policy outlined AI’s new position on Sexual and Reproductive Rights that “includes support for abortion.”

While the document claims AI would support abortion only in “particular circumstances,” in effect the goals of the new position would support abortion on demand.

“The new policy has three basic goals: (1) provide access to abortion in what they claim will only be “particular circumstances,” (2) ensure that women have access to medical care after botched-whether legal or illegal-abortions, and (3) eliminate all penalties against women seeking abortions and against abortion providers,” Anderson writes.

Although AI denies that they are now supporting abortion as a human right, Anderson states that is simply not true.

“The phrase: ‘AI takes no position on whether abortion is right or wrong, nor on whether or not abortion should be legal’ is repeated over and over throughout the AI documents. But it’s not true.”

‘Though they try to make a strong distinction between “decriminalization” (what they’re for) and “legalization” (what they take no position on), it’s mere semantics…

[T]hey specify:

“‘Decriminalization’ means the removal of all criminal penalties (including imprisonment, fines, and other punishments) against those seeking, obtaining, providing information about, or carrying out abortions.”

In other words, besides standard medical protocols, you can not regulate abortion at all.

Some medical protocols that carry fines and other punishments are apparently out, too.

AI also says that their new policy is “to call on states to: Ensure access to abortion services to any woman who becomes pregnant as the result of rape, sexual assault, or incest, or where a pregnancy poses a risk to a woman’s life or a grave risk to her health.”

“[W]hen you throw in the language of a risk to life and health, even if you include the obligatory word ‘grave’, all of a sudden every abortion becomes ‘ensured,'” Anderson points out.

“If you doubt this, just look at the way Roe‘s health exception and Doe‘s broad definition of the word have been used.”

AI even states that they oppose the 18April07 U.S. Supreme Court decision to uphold the partial birth abortion ban.

“AI therefore opposes the provision of the federal law upheld by the Court in Carhart that imposes fines and up to two years in prison for doctors who perform particular types of abortions.”

Officials with the organization have made a significant attempt to keep the new policy secret from the public.

In a letter posted by Karen Schneider, the chair of the Sexual and Reproductive Rights Working Group, on the members-only website section, she states:

“It is very important to be aware of the following: This policy will not be made public at this time. As the IEC [Amnesty International’s International Executive Committee] has written to all sections, “There is to be no proactive external publication of the policy position or of the fact of its adoption issued. This means no section or structure is to issue a press release or public statement or external communication of any kind on the policy decision.”

As backup in case the news should get out, the site contained links to letters to be distributed to the public in response to criticism of the new policy, including a form letter “that should be used only to respond to critical editorials or letters to the editor in local newspapers.”

A two-page overview of the policy and a FAQ sheet were also included as damage control materials should the news leak out.

Rachel MacNair is vice president of Consistent Life and a long-time member of Amnesty International. In an account posted on the Consistent Life website, MacNair details how she was stopped from leafleting attendants at AI’s national conference by an AI official, who admitted when asked that AIUSA was censoring people on the issue of the abortion policy.

MacNair had discussed the proposal with a member of the International Executive Committee, which is responsible for making the abortion decision, prior to the censoring incident.

She found that he was uninformed about basic pro-life objections to the policy, showing a lack of sincerity in the Committee’s “consultation process” on the issue.

During Consistent Life’s efforts to educate AI members on the issue, MacNair reported, they were repeatedly prevented from distributing materials to conference attendees at various AI events.

“There are one, two issues here: one is the abortion policy itself, and one is how much it’s being decided by members and supporters as opposed to being decided by an elite who knows what’s good for us.”

MacNair points out that polling of AI members in the UK suggested the majority wanted to see AI remain abortion-neutral–in the U.S., many members were not even aware there was a web-based vote “hidden on the web page members-only section with no publicity, and a deadline of December 1.”

“So the decision is made – evidence suggests that it always was – and many of those of us AI supporters who are heartsick about it no longer have a voice inasmuch as it can be said that we ever did.”

Consistent Life offers a list of alternative Human Rights organizations that do not have policy positions on abortion, suggesting AI supporters send their donations elsewhere.

See First Things report:

See Consistent Life coverage:

Previous: Amnesty International Considers Pushing Enforcement of Abortion as Human Right

UK Amnesty Members Narrowly Reject Abortion Advocacy in Consultation Report

[3May07, Schultz, NYC,]