Amnesty International drubs Poland on abortion

world | Jun 25, 2009 | By Piero Tozzi

Amnesty International recently issued its 2009 survey of what it considers to be the state of human rights throughout the world. Of particular interest to social conservatives is Amnesty's continued campaign to advance a "right" to abortion globally.

In its entry on Poland , Amnesty raps the country for its alleged "Denial of access to abortion for eligible women," citing criticism that Poland received from the Human Rights Council (HRC) in May 2008. It further faulted the government for failing to implement a 2007 ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), Tysiąc v. Poland, concerning a purported "duty to establish effective mechanisms for ensuring women have access to abortion where it is legal."

Critics charge, however, that both the HRC criticism and the 2007 ECHR decision highlighted by Amnesty underscore growing trends among "human rights" bodies that increasingly seek to impose obligations on countries based on social policy preferences rather than on hard jurisprudential principles.

The Tysiąc decision, which resulted in a 25,000 euro fine against the government of Poland, concerned a severely myopic woman who claimed she would go blind if she could not get an abortion. Critics charge that her claims were unsupported by the facts and that the court ignored the opinions of eight experts, including gynecologists and opthamologists, who concluded that there was no connection between her pregnancy and her condition.

ECHR Judge Javier Borrego Borrego of Spain, in a spirited dissent, noted that the majority instead relied on the "isolated and muddled" opinion of a single general practitioner in order to achieve the desired outcome. This view was echoed in the International Journal of Human Rights by Jakob Corniedes, who wrote that the Court “simply…failed to establish any link between the facts and the law.”

By trumpeting decisions like Tysiąc and statements emanating from United Nations agencies to advance a global abortion agenda, Amnesty International has adopted a strategy originally spearheaded by pro-abortion public interest law firm Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR).

According to Susan Yoshihara of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute [Publisher of the Friday Fax], at the Women Deliver conference held in London in 2007, Amnesty's "reproductive rights" coordinator Stephanie Schlitt committed the group to partnering with CRR to get abortion recognized as a human right through litigation, in part by arguing that such a right could be found in existing human rights treaties. While conceding that treaties are silent on abortion, Schlitt stated that skillful advocacy could help create recognition of a new "right to abortion" among a "critical mass" of United Nations officials and global jurists.

Prior to 2006, Amnesty was neutral on the subject and took the position that "no generally accepted right to abortion in international human rights law" existed. Since abandoning neutrality, Amnesty has repeatedly intervened in internal debates in countries like Mexico and the Dominican Republic claiming – incorrectly – that international law requires countries to permit abortion.

Piero Tozzi J.D. writes for the Friday Fax of C-FAM.org

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