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Amnesty's abortion stance splits grassroots support

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  • Steve Hayes
    01 September 2007 The Independent www.independent.co.uk Amnesty s abortion stance splits grassroots support By Cahal Milmo The Bromley and Orpington Amnesty
    Message 1 of 4 , Sep 1, 2007
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      01 September 2007
      The Independent
      www.independent.co.uk

      Amnesty's abortion stance splits grassroots support

      By

      Cahal Milmo


      The Bromley and Orpington Amnesty International Group will conduct its
      fundraising activities much as normal this autumn. Alongside a sponsored
      walk in Kent and a street collection in London, a local theatre group will
      lay on a charity premiere of its production of Arthur Miller's Death of a
      Salesman.

      But beneath the busy exterior of grassroots cam-paigning, there are
      rumblings of discontent. The group of about 25 activists in the suburbs of
      south-east London is one of a growing number across Britain which is
      grappling with resignations and dissent in the aftermath of Amnesty
      International's decision last month to change its stance on abortion.

      A vote by the organisation's executive committee, composed of members from
      52 countries, to campaign for the right of women to have access to abortion
      in certain circumstances was greeted by the high-profile resignations of two
      bishops and criticism from the Vatican, which accused Amnesty of betraying
      its founding principles and called for Catholics to stop donating to the
      group.

      Now some within Amnesty's 250,000-strong UK membership have added their
      weight to what critics say is a rebellion by activists over the change of
      policy and the way in which it was achieved.

      The divisions have been intensified by the fact that many of Amnesty's local
      groups, which account for 7,000 members, have their origins in churches and
      religious groups bitterly opposed to abortion. Amnesty raises #250,000 a
      year through its UK branches.

      Neville White, chairman of the Bromley and Orpington group, said his group,
      which raises about #5,000 a year for Amnesty, has lost a Catholic member who
      was responsible for auditing its accounts while other groups in the area
      have suffered further resignations and the threat of the withdrawal of their
      meeting rooms by churches.

      The Independent has been told that branches in Birmingham, Liverpool, Leeds
      and Newcastle have also been hit by departures of long-standing members and
      there have been calls for debate about the possibility of unilaterally
      opting out of the new policy.

      Mr White, who has contributed to a debate on the issue in the letters page
      of this newspaper, said: "I think the leadership of Amnesty have failed to
      grasp how divisive this policy has been and instead taken the view that they
      must not buckle to the views of local campaigners.

      "Much of the strength of Amnesty lies in the work of its local activists who
      are on the streets weekend after weekend and yet the consultation of the
      membership was at best too brief and lacking in the necessary depth to
      tackle such a sensitive subject.

      The branch, which was founded by members of a Quaker group, is to meet with
      other local activists to discuss a further response to the new policy, which
      was adopted with a large majority at a meeting of Amnesty's governing
      council in Mexico. The policy has also provoked strong reactions beyond
      Britain. Amnesty has two million members worldwide, many of them in
      staunchly Catholic countries.

      Under the new provision, Amnesty will now campaign for countries to allow
      abortion for women in cases of rape, incest, sexual assault or when the
      pregnancy put the mother's life or her health at grave risk.

      The human rights group denied that it had rushed through its consultation
      with its UK membership, saying it had begun a debate on the abortion issue
      early in 2005 and been voted on by its annual meeting twice. It also played
      downd resignations among its membership.

      A spokeswoman said: "There has not been an exodus. If anything, we have had
      a number of people making of point of showing their support for the policy.
      Our local groups are very important and we deeply respect anybody's right to
      follow their conscience."

      ========

      http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/this_britain/article2917336.ece

      ========
      --
      Steve Hayes
      E-mail: shayes@...
      Web: http://hayesfam.bravehost.com/stevesig.htm
      http://people.tribe.net/hayesstw
      Blog: http://methodius.blogspot.com
      Phone: 083-342-3563 or 012-333-6727
    • wielenga
      I am a bit surprised Steve to read about this strong reaction against Amnesty s softening stance on abortion in real urgent situations. It s not about freedom
      Message 2 of 4 , Sep 1, 2007
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        I am a bit surprised Steve to read about this strong reaction against
        Amnesty's softening stance on abortion in real urgent situations. It's not
        about freedom of choice or about the pregnant woman's right to decide for
        herself. As far as I am concerned the reasons for abortion, accepted by
        Amnesty, are the exceptions confirming the rule of no-abortion. An
        absolutist stance, as advocated by pro-lifers, has less to do with Biblical
        principles as with natural theological teachings of ages past. Of course,
        the question is, has Amnesty counted the costs before she took this
        decision? Bob Wielenga

        -----Original Message-----
        From: chris_soc@yahoogroups.com [mailto:chris_soc@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf
        Of Steve Hayes
        Sent: 01 September 2007 06:50 PM
        To: chris_soc@yahoogroups.com
        Subject: [chris_soc] Amnesty's abortion stance splits grassroots support

        01 September 2007
        The Independent
        www.independent.co.uk

        Amnesty's abortion stance splits grassroots support

        By

        Cahal Milmo



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        05:21 PM
      • Jani
        The cost seems to be that some hardline Catholics have withdrawn their support. I hope that Amnesty, which is not a tool of the RCC, can rise above that.
        Message 3 of 4 , Sep 1, 2007
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          The "cost" seems to be that some hardline Catholics have withdrawn their
          support. I hope that Amnesty, which is not a tool of the RCC, can rise above
          that.

          Jani

          ----- Original Message -----
          From: "wielenga" <wielenga@...>
          To: <chris_soc@yahoogroups.com>
          Sent: Saturday, September 01, 2007 8:25 PM
          Subject: RE: [chris_soc] Amnesty's abortion stance splits grassroots support


          >I am a bit surprised Steve to read about this strong reaction against
          > Amnesty's softening stance on abortion in real urgent situations. It's not
          > about freedom of choice or about the pregnant woman's right to decide for
          > herself. As far as I am concerned the reasons for abortion, accepted by
          > Amnesty, are the exceptions confirming the rule of no-abortion. An
          > absolutist stance, as advocated by pro-lifers, has less to do with
          > Biblical
          > principles as with natural theological teachings of ages past. Of course,
          > the question is, has Amnesty counted the costs before she took this
          > decision? Bob Wielenga
          >
          > -----Original Message-----
          > From: chris_soc@yahoogroups.com [mailto:chris_soc@yahoogroups.com] On
          > Behalf
          > Of Steve Hayes
          > Sent: 01 September 2007 06:50 PM
          > To: chris_soc@yahoogroups.com
          > Subject: [chris_soc] Amnesty's abortion stance splits grassroots support
          >
          > 01 September 2007
          > The Independent
          > www.independent.co.uk
          >
          > Amnesty's abortion stance splits grassroots support
          >
          > By
          >
          > Cahal Milmo
          >
          >
          >
          > No virus found in this outgoing message.
          > Checked by AVG Free Edition.
          > Version: 7.5.484 / Virus Database: 269.13.1/982 - Release Date: 2007/08/31
          > 05:21 PM
          >
          >
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          >
          >
          > Yahoo! Groups Links
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          >
          >
        • Steve Hayes
          ... Hi Bob, The article does not give enough information for one to know exactly what Amnesty decided to do or why. I know that one of their strengths was
          Message 4 of 4 , Sep 1, 2007
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            On 1 Sep 2007 at 21:25, wielenga wrote:

            > I am a bit surprised Steve to read about this strong reaction against
            > Amnesty's softening stance on abortion in real urgent situations. It's not
            > about freedom of choice or about the pregnant woman's right to decide for
            > herself. As far as I am concerned the reasons for abortion, accepted by
            > Amnesty, are the exceptions confirming the rule of no-abortion. An absolutist
            > stance, as advocated by pro-lifers, has less to do with Biblical principles as
            > with natural theological teachings of ages past. Of course, the question is,
            > has Amnesty counted the costs before she took this decision? Bob Wielenga

            Hi Bob,

            The article does not give enough information for one to know exactly what
            Amnesty decided to do or why.

            I know that one of their strengths was that they bused to focus on one
            particular issue -- unjust imprisonment of people for reasons of conscience -
            and they were pretty even-handed about it. During the Cold War, they
            denounced such abuses of human rights whether they took place in the East or
            the West, and whether the conscience concerned was Christian, Muslim, Jewish,
            Hindu, Buddhist, atheist or agnostic.

            When I was banned back in the 1970s I got well oveer 1000 Christmas cards
            from members in various countries. One of their strengths was that they were
            able to mobilise grassroots support among their members and supporters for
            such actions.

            From what I've been able to glean from the report, it seems that, as happens
            in many NGOs, they have opted for bureaucratic centralism rather that
            grassroots support.


            --
            Steve Hayes
            E-mail: shayes@...
            Web: http://hayesfam.bravehost.com/stevesig.htm
            http://people.tribe.net/hayesstw
            Blog: http://methodius.blogspot.com
            Phone: 083-342-3563 or 012-333-6727
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