Kathryn Lopez

It is a tragedy when a force for good becomes a force for evil. But such is the case with Amnesty International.

In April, the 1.8 million-member human-rights organization announced its support for abortion. Amnesty International (AI), in a press release, made it clear that it stood by "the rights of women and girls to be free from threat, force, or coercion as they exercise their sexual and reproductive rights."

I certainly don't want women and girls to be sexually or reproductively forced or coerced into anything. But if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, would Amnesty International consider the U.S. government even more of a human-rights violator than they already do? AI should probably take a look at their own policies toward human rights before they start pointing fingers.

How can AI be a credible human-rights defender when it will not unconditionally defend those who are truly voiceless -- the unborn? Congressman Chris Smith (R-N.J.), a pro-life human-rights advocate, is right in advising AI against the policy change: "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," Smith said at a press conference.

What's so frustrating about the new policy is that AI -- founded by a Communist and Roman Catholic convert -- can do a world of good with its global resources.

Days after pro-life groups were blasting AI for its new policy, the organization was publicizing the plight of the blind Chinese human-rights activist Chen Guangcheng, who was beaten in a prison. He is serving a four-year sentence on trumped-up charges; his real transgression was exposing the inhuman treatment of women and unborn children in the Shandong province, where local Linyi City officials use forced sterilization and abortion to meet China's population-control mandates. If AI is supporting a man who is fighting against the mistreatment of women, how can they not realize how similar that fight is to the preservation of unborn life?

Mary Ann Glendon, the Learned Hand Professor of Law at Harvard University Law School, has tried to solve the AI riddle.

"Amnesty International is a textbook example of what Max Weber called the routinization of charisma," Glendon observed. "They started out as noble participants in the human-rights revolution that helped to bring about the collapse of totalitarian regimes in Eastern Europe. ... They had grown into a member of what has become a human-rights industry -- professional groups with continuous need for things to do and money to do them with" The good news is, people are noticing. AI's antics are "creating a vacuum and need for organizations and individuals that have a proper view of human rights," says Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America. Like a lot of pro-life activists I talked to about the AI policy, Wright is optimistic: "Just as the U.S. abortion lobby's extreme position against partial-birth abortion bans helped create a majority now against abortion, AI's mind-bending adoption of the view that killing babies is a human right goes so against common sense that it could result in causing people to think about the true human-rights violations caused by abortion."

So, in its inadvertent way, maybe Amnesty International will give human-rights activism a new life -- despite its own refusal to give amnesty to the unborn.


Kathryn Lopez

Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor of National Review Online, writes a weekly column of conservative political and social commentary for Newspaper Enterprise Association.