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Letter to Executive Director Amnesty International USA Mr. Larry Cox

Location: Washington, DC

Smith, Others Call on Amnesty International to Reject Pro-Abortion Platform at Capitol Hill Press Conference

At a press conference on Capitol Hill today, U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), Co-Chairman of the Bipartisan Congressional Pro Life Caucus, called on Amnesty International to resist pressure from abortion rights advocates to adopt a pro-abortion position. Smith was joined by U.S. Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA), Luis Fortuno, Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico (R-PR), Deirdre McQuade, Director of Planning and Information for the Pro-Life Secretariat of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and Kirsten Day, Executive Director of Democrats for Life.

"The killing of an unborn child by abortion can never be construed to be a human right. Therefore, taking a position that supports violence against children is antithetical to everything Amnesty International stands for. It is not possible for Amnesty to justify any position that condones abortion based on international human rights law while at the same time remain true to their principles," Smith said.

Amnesty International currently holds a neutral position on abortion, but in recent years they have been under pressure by abortion rights activists to adopt a pro-abortion position. A final decision could be made at Amnesty International's next international meeting that will be held in Mexico in August of 2007. Representing the views of their membership, country representatives will likely vote on what, if any, position Amnesty International should take on abortion.

In a strongly worded letter addressed to Larry Cox, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, Smith and 73 other Members of Congress urged the organization to either maintain the abortion neutral position or take a position in favor of life. The letter states that a decision to support or condone abortion would "significantly undermine Amnesty's reputation and effectiveness."

Amnesty International has a broad constituency including many persons of faith and works closely with religious and faith based organizations to promote human rights. Since 1961, the organization has worked across party-lines to protect human rights and defend the weak and the oppressed.

"Amnesty International has been a leader in protecting human rights and defending the weak and oppressed for over forty years. For this reason, it deeply concerns me that they would consider taking a position that runs counter to protecting the most basic of human rights-the right to life," said Smith.

Lungren stated that the signatories to the letter were not asking Amnesty International to change their position either way, simply to remain neutral and continue to advocate for human rights for all.

"The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights recognized the right to life in acknowledging that everyone has the right to life, liberty, and security of person. Were Amnesty International to take action to subtract the right to life from this common standard, its actions would undermine both this responsibility as well as other human rights," said Lungren.

Day said that the policy change would enable repressive countries to continue to their abusive policies.

"Helping promote abortion will only aid and abet those already forcing women to terminate their pregnancies," said Day.

Speaking on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops- whom had previously voiced their concerns in their own letter to Amnesty International-McQuade urged Amnesty International to "remain faithful" to their tenets.

"We urge Amnesty International to reject the proposed policy chance so as to remain faithful to its noble mission, preserve its constructive relationships with human rights advocates, and develop a more holistic and compassionate response to women and their families worldwide," said McQuade.

The following is the text of the Smith letter :

November 15, 2006

Mr. Larry Cox

Executive Director

Amnesty International USA
5 Penn Plaza
New York, NY 10001
fax: (212) 627-1451

Dear Mr. Cox:

As lawmakers, we believe we have a compelling individual and collective duty to protect the weak, disenfranchised, unwanted and vulnerable from violence and abuse.

The principles long held by Amnesty International embody values supported by persons from a broad spectrum of ideological, political and religious beliefs. That's why we are proud to have made common cause with Amnesty International in promoting key human rights such as the rule of just law, respect for religious liberty, an end to torture, enhanced efforts to combat human trafficking, the protection for freedom of association and of the press, and the release of political prisoners.

Since 1961, you have made a difference for the good in the lives of many and in building a more just society. We write today, however, with great concern and alarm that the mission and reputation of Amnesty International is at risk. We are deeply concerned that Amnesty International may soon embrace a mandate regarding abortion that is antithetical to your—our—shared duty to protect. We respectfully ask that at a minimum you remain neutral on the issue of abortion. Better, of course, would be for you to join us in defending unborn children who we believe deserve better than abortion. The most elemental human right of all—the right to life for all includes unborn babies.

To in any way condone or support abortion which many of your supporters believe is actually a human rights abuse, would significantly undermine Amnesty's reputation and effectiveness.

The issue of abortion incites strong convictions and any explicit or implied position in favor of abortion will thrust the organization into the heated debate on this topic. As you know, abortion has long divided our country, and current attempts by certain Western groups to introduce abortion as a legal right in the developing world are giving rise to justifiable indignation and resentment by the majority of the populations who live there and value the life of the unborn.

Amnesty International's vision is one of a "world in which every person enjoys all of the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights standards." It is not possible for Amnesty to justify any position that condones abortion based on international human rights law while at the same time objectively adhering to legal instruments and processes. No United Nations human rights treaty or convention recognizes a so-called right to - or even addresses the issue of - abortion.

We believe that the killing of an unborn child by abortion can never be construed to be a human right. Every child—born or unborn—deserves protection and to have his or her human rights secured and protected.

In recent years, modern medicine and scientific breakthroughs have shattered the myth that unborn children are not human persons or alive. Today, as you know, ultrasound technologies and other diagnostic tools have helped doctors to diagnose illness and disability before birth. New and exciting breakthrough health care interventions for the unborn—from intrauterine blood transfusions to microsurgeries—are leading to an ever expanding array of successful treatments and cures of sick or disabled unborn babies in need of help, rather than being subjected to painful administration of deadly chemicals or dismemberment.

Abortion methods either rip, tear and dismember or chemically poison the fragile bodies of unborn children to death. There is nothing whatsoever benign, compassionate or just about an act that utterly destroys the life of a baby. Attempts to justify abortion when a child is "unwanted" turns that baby into an object. No one's life should be contingent on wantedness. Surely, Amnesty International—more than most—understands and is sensitive to the fact that violence is often given sanction by either demonizing or redefining the victim as a throwaway.

Abortion is both violence against children and the exploitation of women. We strongly believe women deserve better than abortion. Nonviolent, humane solutions need to be found for mothers in crisis or sexual abuse victims. Abortion solves nothing for them—it only adds another victim.

Consider the deleterious effects on women's psychological and emotional health from abortions. A study in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry just this year demonstrated once again the devastating effect of abortion on women. According to researchers, Fergusson, Horwood and Ridder, women who had an "abortion had elevated rates of subsequent mental health problems including depression, anxiety, suicidal behaviours and substance use disorders."

Alveda King, niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., has joined the coalition of women who regret their abortions and are "Silent No More." They are speaking out against abortion as a the terrible injustice to women as well as children. In her words, "How can the ‘Dream' survive if we murder the children?" Abortion is truly not a human right, but rather a terrible injustice against the weakest individuals.

With deep respect we ask that you in no way embrace or enable the demise of even one child. Retain your neutrality or join us in defending the most discriminated class of human beings on earth—unborn babies.

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