Bishop speaks out over Amnesty Abortion Stance

The Catholic Bishop of East Anglia, the Rt Rev Michael Evans, has expressed his disappointment over human rights group Amnesty International's decision to end its neutral stance on abortion.

At its 28th International Council Meeting in Mexico City last week, Amnesty reaffirmed its April decision to support abortion in certain circumstances, for example cases of sexual violence, rape, incest or where the health or human rights of women are "in danger".

The Catholic Church, which equates abortion with murder whatever the circumstances, has urged its millions of members worldwide to cut all support to the human rights group, which was originally founded by a Catholic layman to provide support and defence for political prisoners.

Bishop Evans stressed, "The Catholic Church has no desire for women who have been through the trauma of abortion to be punished; they need compassion and healing. Women who suffer complications after an abortion should obviously receive quality care.

"But our proper indignation regarding pervasive violence against women should not cloud our judgement about our duty to protect the most vulnerable and defenceless form of human life."

Bishop Evans pointed to the 1989 UN International Convention on the Rights of the Child, which reaffirms the 1959 Declaration of the Rights of the Child in saying that a child needs "special safeguards and care, in cluding appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth".

"This must surely be part of the body of international human rights law to which Amnesty International is committed," said Bishop Evans.

Secretary General of Amnesty, Irene Khan said that the delegates at the meeting in Mexico would not approve or disapprove of the group's decision to support abortion in some cases because they had already adopted it after two and a half years of internal debate.

Amnesty believes the policy is consistent with its ongoing campaign to end violence against women, particularly in cases where the rape of women is used as a weapon in war or conflict.

Bishop Evans continued: "The Catholic Church shares Amnesty's strong commitment to oppose violence against women (for example, rape, sexual assault and incest), but such appalling violence must not be answered by violence against the most vulnerable and defenceless form of human life in a woman's womb.

"Catholics would want to show practical compassion for such women, and ensure for them all the medical and spiritual care and support they need. But there is no human right to access to abortion, and Amnesty should not involve itself even in such extreme cases."

Earlier in the month, Cardinal Renato Marino, head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said: "If, in fact, Amnesty International persists in this course of action, individuals and Catholic organisations must withdraw their support."