Amnesty, Vic ALP moves on abortion provoke Catholic ire

A number of pro-life organisations have spoken out against Amnesty International's declared intention to spread abortion rights around the world, and in Victoria the ALP Catholic Right failed to stop Premier Bracks' resolve to go to this year's election with an abortion decriminalisation platform.

Catholic World News reports that on Friday, Fr Joaquin Alliende, the international ecclesiastical assistant of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), said that it was "With great regret we have learned that Amnesty International has proposed advancing abortion 'rights' around the world as a new mission for their organisation."

The main paper of Amnesty's new Sexual and Reproductive Rights Consultation Kit states that, "Governments have responsibilities to ensure that everyone's sexual and reproductive rights are protected."

"No one should be discriminated against", it added, "when and if they attempt to exercise their sexual and reproductive rights, or ask that they be protected." Amnesty is now calling for the global decriminalisation of abortion and says that there should be widespread abortion on demand in cases involving sexual assault or risk to a woman's life.

Fr Alliende, a Chilean priest, said that ACN shares much in common with Amnesty in its efforts to gain the release of innocent prisoners on conscience.

However, he said that by proposing a pro-abortion stance, Amnesty is "abandoning its own noble ethical principles, thereby shaking the very foundations on which it is built; for the simple reason that unborn life in a mother's womb is the very weakest of all threatened and persecuted human beings."

"Thus", he said, "the day this initiative was launched will become a day of mourning for all those who are unconditionally committed to true humanism," he said.

Amnesty International's current policy on abortion states that the group "takes no position on whether or not women have a right to choose to terminate unwanted pregnancies; there is no generally accepted right to abortion in international human rights law."

Meanwhile, The Age reports that in Victoria, Labor will go to the state election with a platform to decriminalise all abortions after Labor's Catholic Right failed to change the existing platform, which states: "Labor will amend section 65 of the Crimes Act to provide that no abortion be criminal when performed by a legally qualified medical practitioner at the request of the woman concerned."

At a passionate ALP state conference debate at the weekend, Labor reiterated its pledge to change state law so terminations - at any stage of a pregnancy - are no longer a crime.

An amendment by conservative former minister Christine Campbell and backbencher Noel Pullen called for the platform to be changed so more consideration was given to the effects of late-term abortions.

Ms Campbell told the conference removing section 65 of the Crimes Act would allow women to have "abortion on demand".

"Advancements in medical technology have resulted in babies surviving months before a full-term delivery," her amendment said. "These premature babies are sentient. They feel pain and suffering and react to stimuli. This policy will allow abortion from conception to the time of full-term delivery, including partial-birth abortion."

Abortion has been decriminalised in Western Australia, Tasmania and the ACT. In Victoria, terminations are performed under the 1969 Menhennitt ruling, which permits abortion if it is seen as necessary to protect the life or health of the woman.

Decriminalisation is now in the ALP election platform and will be considered after the election if the Government is returned.

ALP adopts decriminalisation policy on abortion (The Age 8/5/06)
Pro-lifers rue Amnesty International move to support abortion (Catholic World News 5/5/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Amnesty International Australia

Bracks makes abortion deal (Herald-Sun 5/5/06)
Humanitarian groups worried about Amnesty International's wide-sweeping abortion initiative (Catholic News Agency 5/5/06)
Amnesty International's Pro-abortion Shift Assailed (Zenit 5/5/06)
Counselling service offers support to men after abortion (catholicireland.net 30/4/06)
Church questions Indian Government's will to prevent abortion of girls (The Tablet 8/4/06)
Sukrit Sabhlok: Legalising abortion in Victoria (On Line Opinion 28/12/05)

8 May 2006