Irish Amnesty branch opts out of new abortion policy

The Irish branch of Amnesty International will not be promoting the organisation's new campaign to allow abortion in cases of…

The Irish branch of Amnesty International will not be promoting the organisation's new campaign to allow abortion in cases of rape, incest or threats to the life of the mother, Amnesty International Ireland's Dublin office has confirmed.

Noeleen Hartigan, Amnesty International Ireland's programmes director, has confirmed the Irish branch has effectively opted out of the controversial new policy, which seeks to address the lack of abortion availability, especially following mass rapes and ethnic cleansing.

Amnesty International Ireland made its decision not to promote the new policy following a two-year consultation with members.

A small number of Irish Amnesty members have sent back their membership cards ahead of a meeting in Mexico next month when Amnesty's International Council will affirm the new policy.


By opting out, the Irish branch will stay silent on campaigns to allow victims of rape in Darfur to obtain an abortion.

Ms Hartigan said that it was simply a matter of priorities and that Amnesty International would be strongly promoting other issues, such as mental health rights, which other states are not working on as intently.

She said there was no bad feeling within the organisation and that the abortion debate was nowhere near as divisive in Ireland as it was 10 or 15 years ago.

The decision of the Irish branch, along with criticism from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, will not stop the new Amnesty policy for which there is strong international support, said Kate Gilmore, Amnesty's deputy secretary general.

Ms Gilmore said the debate in Ireland, Latin America, and some parts of the United States had been "wrenching" but that the debate had been very open and respectful.

She also said that Amnesty International Ireland would not be "walking away" from decisions made by the overall organisation. "I know this sounds like hair-splitting but no one country can step away from the decisions of the organisation as a whole.

"In Ireland's case, it's a matter of promoting other campaigns, and finding areas that Ireland can work to its best strengths."

Amnesty's London headquarters has said that it is not seeking to promote abortion as an international human right but merely that it should be provided in limited circumstances.

One former Amnesty member, Mary Stewart of Donegal town, said that she had sent back her membership card in protest at the International Executive Committee's decision to adopt the abortion policy.

"I joined Amnesty because of its strong opposition to the death penalty but now opposition to the death penalty does not apply to unborn babies," said Mrs Stewart.