Mission creep: Amnesty and abortion
Amnesty International last week announced that it had abandoned its policy of neutrality on the issue of abortion in favour of supporting it “in some circumstances”, including pregnancies resulting from rape or incest or when the mother’s life or health is at stake. Naturally, this has caused a lot of upset, with the Catholic church threatening to withdraw support from the group. Cath Elliot, “a feminist and a trade unionist” who works in local government, wrote an article for Comment is Free supporting the new position, alleging that “forcing a woman to continue with a pregnancy against her will is a continuation of the violence against her”; Sunny at Pickled Politics agrees.
Given that I’m a Muslim, you might guess what my position on abortion is (not pro, although not as strictly anti as the Catholic church is). However, it seems like another example of an organisation succumbing to “mission creep”, involving itself in matters which have nothing to do with the reason it was set up - rather like the Soil Association threatening to remove organic status from air-freighted African produce because of the environmental damage air-freighting causes. Amnesty’s main work is to free prisoners of conscience, people jailed for peacefully-held beliefs. It also opposes capital punishment - a policy adopted more recently, and sometimes controversial; I remember seeing a letter in their magazine from someone “shocked” at being asked to write on behalf of a mass murderer facing execution in Guatemala.
However, abortion is a totally separate issue, and it seems that they have opted for a “western secular liberal” stance rather than remaining a broad organisation fighting for political freedoms. Surely there are already enough people fighting for women’s abortion “rights”; for Amnesty International to take this on as a side issue hardly helps that cause but hurts its own, because of the inevitable falling-off of funding. It is a mistake.
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