Amnesty International — a human rights group that had previously remained mostly neutral on abortion — has released a new policy on sexual and reproductive rights that increases the organization’s support for abortion rights. Amnesty recently announced that it will support abortions for victims of sexual violence and for women whose health is endangered by pregnancy. It will also advocate the decriminalization of abortion worldwide. The decision came after two years of discussion with experts and the organization’s 2.2 million members.
Amnesty said in a statement that its new policy is designed to contest criminal penalties leveled against abortion providers and women who seek the procedure; to support access to reproductive health care; and to ask governments to help the victims of unsafe abortions, independent of the legality of abortion in a country. The organization, which risks losing supporters for its new position, appealed to both supporters and opponents of abortion rights, saying that Amnesty “recognizes and respects the diversity of religious viewpoints on abortion and believes that one of its greatest strengths has been the solidarity forged among people of diverse beliefs who nonetheless share a commitment to ending human suffering.” The group has maintained that it does not support abortion as a “fundamental right,” primarily because international human rights law does not take such a position.
The new reproductive health policy is the most recent initiative in Amnesty’s fight to end violence against women, a campaign that began in 2004. According to the UN Millennium project, about 70,000 women die yearly from unsafe, illegal abortions.