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Bishop William S. Skylstad, Bishop of Spokane
August 23, 2007
After nearly a year of dialogue with leaders of Amnesty International (AI), the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops strongly protests the recent action of AI’s International Council to promote worldwide access to abortion. This basic policy change undermines Amnesty’s longstanding moral credibility and unnecessarily diverts its mission. In promoting abortion, Amnesty divides its own members (many of whom are Catholics and others who defend the rights of unborn children) and jeopardizes its support by people in many nations, cultures and religions who share a consistent commitment to all human rights.
Amnesty International's action will lead many people of conscience to seek alternative means to end grave human rights abuses, fight injustice, and promote freedom of conscience and expression. The essential work of protecting human life and promoting human dignity must carry on. We must continue to oppose the use of the death penalty and the crushing effects of dehumanizing poverty. We must continue to stand with prisoners of conscience, refugees and migrants, and other oppressed peoples. But we will seek to do so in authentic ways, working most closely with organizations who do not oppose the fundamental right to life from conception to natural death.
To some, the action of Amnesty International may appear to be a compassionate response to women in difficult situations of pregnancy, but this is a false compassion. True commitment to women's rights puts us in solidarity with women and their unborn children. It does not pit one against the other but calls us to advocate on behalf of both. As our Conference has argued, a far more compassionate response is to provide support and services for pregnant women, advance their educational and economic standing in society, and resist all forms of violence and stigmatization against women. The Catholic Church provides these services to many women around the world and will continue to do so.
We call upon Amnesty International once again to act in accord with its noblest principles, reconsider its error, and reverse its policy on abortion.
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