Amnesty International, a human rights organization that used to be abortion neutral, is now using the problem of maternal mortality to advocate for abortion. In a new report, ostensibly on medical care for maternal health, Amnesty calls on governments to repeal abortion laws and conscience protection for medical workers who may object. They also call for public health systems to train and equip health care providers to perform abortions.
Amnesty’s “Maternal Health is a Human Right” campaign focuses attention on four countries: Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso, Peru, and the United States. Amnesty argues that maternal mortality will decrease if it is treated as a human rights issue, if costs to health care are covered by governments, and if a right for women to control their reproductive and sex lives is established.
The United States’ maternal mortality ratio is only 21 deaths per 100,000 live births compared to Burkina Faso’s 300 and Sierra Leone’s 890 deaths per 100,000 births.
The Amnesty’s report that in Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso, and Peru, that women face death because of inadequate medical conditions and corruption. But then the report goes further arguing that abortion is needed, too.
Even though Amnesty says the United States has the best health care system in the world, the group urges that abortion services be expanded and obstacles eliminated, including what they call racial and cost barriers. They say abortion services are restricted for Native Americans and women on Medicaid since abortions are only paid for by the government in cases of rape, incest, or when the woman’s life is in danger. These women can still obtain an abortion, but it would not be covered by federal insurance.
Amnesty takes issue with restraints on abortion, including conscience clauses and laws that allow health care providers and institutions to decline to commit an abortion if it is against their religious or moral beliefs.
Elsewhere Amnesty has called for small steps towards the legalization of abortion. The group submitted a report to the UN Committee on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) calling for the legalization of abortion in Mexico for women who are pregnant as a result of rape or incest.
According to its official position, “Amnesty International believes that where women’s access to safe and legal abortion services and information is restricted, their fundamental human rights may be at grave risk.”
At the time Amnesty changed its position, many long-time Catholic supports left the group and at least one Vatican Cardinal called upon Catholics no longer to support the group. In the intervening years Amnesty has become an aggressive public campaigner for a right to abortion and even makes the claim that abortion is a human right in international law.