Although known for its long history of fighting human rights abuses, Amnesty International has become a world leader in pushing for legalized abortion and gay marriage, establishing themselves as an opponent of the Catholic Church. But research conducted by The Cardinal Newman Society found that 20 Catholic colleges and six Catholic law schools sponsor active student chapters of Amnesty International despite the organization’s anti-Catholic activism worldwide.
“While there is still much ignorance about Amnesty International’s radical swing toward abortion advocacy, we are informing Catholic educators and urging them to refrain from any cooperation with the organization,” said Newman Society President Patrick Reilly.
Historically, Amnesty International (AI) maintained a neutral stance on abortion, but in 2007 the group’s executive board announced that the organization would support abortion in certain situations. Following the organization’s decision to support abortion as a human right, the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace urged Catholics to end funding and support for Amnesty International.
“I believe that, if in fact Amnesty International persists in this course of action, individuals and Catholic organizations must withdraw their support, because, in deciding to promote abortion rights, AI has betrayed its mission,” Cardinal Renato Martino, then-president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, told the National Catholic Register in a 2007 interview. Through its new stance on abortion, the organization “betrayed all of its faithful supporters throughout the years,” Cardinal Martino continued, “who have trusted AI for its integral mission of promoting and protecting human rights.”
In 2007, the Newman Society urged Catholic colleges to end affiliations with AI due to its support for abortion in a letter sent to the presidents of Catholic colleges and universities in the U.S. “If your institution has an AI chapter, The Cardinal Newman Society urges you to work with your students to reorganize the club and continue its important work promoting human rights without an Amnesty International affiliation,” wrote the Newman Society’s vice president, Tom Mead.
But many Catholic colleges continue to sponsor chapters of the pro-abortion organization.
Using Amnesty International USA’s “Find a Group” search tool, the Newman Society identified 58 Catholic colleges listed as sponsoring a student chapter. The Society then attempted to verify the existence of these chapters by reviewing each college website, and contacting administrators. Information documenting Amnesty International’s worldwide push for legalized abortion was also sent to administrators with requests for comment to justify their continued sponsorship of AI chapters.
Following verification efforts, the Newman Society identified 20 Catholic colleges and six Catholic law schools with active AI student chapters:
-Boston College and Boston College Law School in Mass.;
-The College of Saint Scholastica in Duluth, Minn.;
-Creighton University in Omaha, Neb.;
-DePaul University in Chicago;
-Dominican University in River Forest, Ill.;
-Edgewood College in Madison, Wis;
-Fordham University and Fordham University School of Law in the Bronx;
-Georgetown University and Georgetown Law School in Washington, D.C.;
-Le Moyne College in Syracuse, N.Y.;
-Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, Calif.;
-Loyola University Chicago;
-Loyola University New Orleans School of Law;
-Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wis.;
-Marygrove College in Detroit;
-Mount Saint Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Md.;
-Providence College in Rhode Island;
-Saint Edward’s University in Austin, Texas;
-Saint Louis University in St. Louis;
-Santa Clara University Law School in California;
-Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J.;
-University of Detroit Mercy Law School in Michigan;
-University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas;
-Villanova University in Pennsylvania.
Of these 26 colleges and law schools, only Dominican University responded to the Newman Society’s request for comment by time of publication.
Dominican University’s director of public information told the Newman Society that although the University has an active AI student chapter, the group “is focused on world peace, nonviolence and sustainability, in keeping with the Pope’s call for environmental stewardship.”
Responses from Amnesty International USA about how often college chapters are verified on their website were not received by press time.
‘Abortion Rights’ and Catholic Colleges
AI’s fervid opposition to the Church on the right to life of all human beings is easily verified by searching the AI website, and the websites of their international affiliates. On the AI Ireland website, for example, a Q&A section declared that abortion is “a human right because women and girls have a legally recognized right to life, a right to health, and a right to live free from violence, discrimination, torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.”
AI endorsed legalized abortion in cases of “rape, sexual assault or incest, or where the pregnancy poses a risk to [the mother’s] life or heath, or in cases of severe or fatal foetal impairment,” and stated that denying abortion “leads to violations of those human rights.” Furthermore, the organization declared that “[h]uman rights protections, including the right to life, apply after birth, not before.”
Father Shenan Boquet, president of Human Life International, a Catholic pro-life and pro-family group that works around the world, told The Cardinal Newman Society, “Amnesty International has done more to promote the idea of abortion as a ‘human right’ than any other organization, since it has such credibility in opposing legitimate abuses of human rights.”
“Amnesty International has not earned the honor of having officially recognized chapters in Catholic colleges,” said Fr. Boquet.
Yet on Catholic college campuses, AI student chapters have championed the organization’s pro-abortion positions.
Just last week on January 14, DePaul University’s AI student chapter encouraged students via its Facebook page to attend a “Pro-Choice Counter Protest” to counter Illinois’ annual March for Life. “[P]lease consider going to this Pro-Choice Counter Protest,” the student group’s Facebook page posted. “Such an important issue right now.”
“Join FURIE (Feminist Uprising against Inequality and Exploitation) and other pro-choice Chicagoans in protesting the largest anti-abortion event in our area, the annual IL ‘March for Life’ for the second year in a row,” reads the event description for the pro-choice counter protest. “Because anti-abortion politics are based on sexism, racism, and flat out lies, we use the more accurate name #MarchforLies.”
In September of last year, Loyola University Chicago’s AI student group encouraged students to attend Amnesty International’s “Rally to Decriminalize Abortion in Ireland,” an event held in conjunction with AI’s “My Body My Rights” campaign that promotes abortion (see below). And in October, the student group also held a meeting on the “My Body My Rights” campaign.
In 2013, Loyola Marymount University’s AI student chapter decried the University’s decision to drop abortion from its health coverage. In a letter obtained by the Newman Society, the group called the decision an “apparent lack of consideration of women’s rights” and “against the values which this University is founded upon.”
In light of the organization’s consistent bid to “promote the murder of unborn children as a human right,” Catholic colleges should refuse to recognize Amnesty International “as a legitimate human rights organization,” said Fr. Boquet.
“There are better options for Catholic colleges who would like to see their students engage in the valuable work of defending human rights for all persons, born and unborn,” Fr. Boquet stated. “Any recognition of such an organization that could be interpreted as endorsement from a Catholic institution should be avoided at all costs.”
Amnesty International’s 'My Body My Rights' Campaign
One of AI’s primary campaigns, “My Body My Rights,” focuses on “defending sexual and reproductive rights,” advocating for same-sex marriage recognition and legalizing abortion.
A “toolkit” for the “My Body My Rights” campaign includes “Ideas for Action,” many of which apply to students on college campuses. The toolkit encourages activists to host a sexual and reproductive health rights panel; give presentations to student, community, and faith-based groups; table at college campuses; utilize the social media hashtag #MyBodyMyRights; host film nights on campus; submit editorials to local newspapers; and organize events, demonstrations and rallies.
Removing laws against abortion on a global scale is a priority for Amnesty International. The organization’s “My Body My Rights” campaign is currently active in Chile and El Salvador to legalize abortion, and the organization spent the latter half of 2015 campaigning in Ireland to repeal its eighth amendment — the country’s constitutional ban on abortion.
In a report titled “She Is Not a Criminal: The Impact of Ireland’s Abortion Law,” the organization stated that the universal human right to life does not begin until after birth, thereby claiming that the unborn do not have a right to life.
Page 49 of the report declares:
Right to life protections do not apply before birth … Opponents of abortion claim that right to life protections set forth in international and regional human rights treaties are accorded before birth, thereby prohibiting states from allowing abortions. The history of the development of UN human rights treaties, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the subsequent interpretation of their right to life provisions by their official interpretative bodies, shows that the right to life treaty provisions only apply after birth. In fact, no human rights body has ever found allowing termination of pregnancy to be incompatible with human rights.
In cases of fetal impairment, Page 52 of the report states that “[i]nternational human rights bodies have repeatedly made clear that the denial of access to abortion in cases of severe and fatal foetal impairment is a violation of a woman’s fundamental human rights, including her rights to privacy, health and freedom from torture and other ill-treatment.”
The report concludes:
Ireland’s abortion regime violates the fundamental human rights of women and girls, including their rights to life, health, equality, non-discrimination, privacy, information and freedom from torture and other ill-treatment. In particular, the privileged position that the Irish Constitution’s Eighth Amendment accords to the foetus comes at the unacceptable expense of the rights and lives of pregnant women and girls. This constitutional provision is inconsistent with international human rights law, which does not recognize a foetal right to life and is clear that human rights apply after birth.
AI also addressed abortion in cases of rape in Question 9 on the AI Ireland website’s Q&A section: “Even if a woman or girl has been raped, is it not wrong to take away the life of the foetus she is carrying?” Amnesty International provides the following response:
The decision of whether or not to carry on with a pregnancy which is the result of rape must rest solely with the rape survivor herself.
The physical and mental harm that women and girls face by forcing them to continue with a pregnancy that is a result of rape, sexual assault or incest is well-documented and recognised as a serious human rights violation, including by the UN Committee against Torture. Human rights standards are clear that governments should ensure access to abortion in such cases.
In his 2007 interview with the National Catholic Register, Cardinal Martino remarked that this justification of abortion was morally indefensible. “To selectively justify abortion, even in the case of rape, is to define the innocent child within the womb as an enemy, a ‘thing’ that must be destroyed. How can we say that killing a child in some cases is good and in other cases it is evil?”
Additionally, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:
Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person — among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life … Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law … The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation … Since it must be treated from conception as a person, the embryo must be defended in its integrity, cared for, and healed, as far as possible, like any other human being.
Amnesty International’s Direct Attacks on the Church
Amnesty International has directly attacked the Catholic Church on more than one occasion. In 2011, the organization released a report on human rights violations, which claimed that the Vatican “did not sufficiently comply” with laws “relating to the protection of children,”according to Catholic News Agency.
And this past October, the organization’s Ireland campaign resulted in another attack on the Church in the form of a pro-abortion video which painted the Church as “the sinister force behind Ireland’s eighth constitutional amendment,” according to LifeSiteNews.
“A ghost haunts Ireland,” the advertisement begins, narrated by actor Liam Neeson. “It blindly brings suffering, even death, to the women whose lives it touches.” The video “never names the Catholic Church, [but] it spends its entire 96-second course panning through a ruined church and cemetery, stopping to focus on mist-shrouded, ruined pews, a fallen tombstone and an ancient stone cross,” LifeSiteNews reported.
The advertisement voiceover concludes: “Ireland doesn’t have to be chained to its past. It’s time for this ghost to be put to rest.” Text at the end of the advertisement states:
Abortion is illegal in Ireland, even when there’s a risk to health and in cases of rape, incest and severe foetal impairment. Help us change this. www.amnesty.org.uk/repeal
“Shame on Amnesty International,” Fr. Boquet told LifeSiteNews. “Ireland has for some time had among the lowest maternal mortality rates in the world, in large part because most of the hospitals are run by or were started by the Catholic Church. It has strong restrictions on abortion even as it has given the best maternal care in the world.”
Following the release of the advertisement, Life Institute — a pro-life group in Ireland — started a petition which accrued more than 150,000 signatures. “Amnesty has become one of the loudest international advocates for abortion on-demand,” Life Institute noted. “Therefore, no-one who wishes to defend genuine human rights can, in good conscience, be a member of, or support Amnesty International with their time or money.”
Given Amnesty International’s opposition to Church teaching and the evident influence it can have on student organizations, Reilly reiterated the Newman Society’s 2007 position and stressed that Catholic colleges should not cooperate with Amnesty International.
“By publicly opposing Amnesty International and the pro-abortion agenda, Catholic schools and colleges can help others learn about the organization’s tragic turn and help teach true values to a society that is in great need of moral leadership,” he said.
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