The following is contributed by Kate Bluett
The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops has issued a statement calling for a severance of ties between Catholics and Amnesty International. Additionally, the statement calls on AI to "reconsider its error, and reverse its policy on abortion." The policy in question is AI's decision to advocate abortions for women who have been the victims of rape, especially in developing nations.
According to AI's press release on the subject, "reproductive rights" for such women will prevent further harm to the victims: " Our policy reflects our obligation of solidarity as a human rights movement with, for example, the rape survivor in Darfur who, because she is left pregnant as a result of the enemy, is further ostracised by her community." The Texas bishops, on the other hand, counter that "Abortion is an act of violence against both the child and its mother. Any organization truly committed to women's rights must put itself in solidarity with women and their unborn children."
The dispute between AI and the bishops comes down to an old question: Do two wrongs make a right? Does abortion somehow heal rape or address its consequences, or does it only compound those consequences? True, it can eliminate one consequence—the child conceived through rape—but does it actually do anything to lessen the stigma attached to being raped in many cultures? Does it in any way redress the wrong done to the raped woman? Does it somehow prevent other rapes from taking place? Abortion does none of these. Instead, it burdens women with one more trauma, one more violent invasion of their bodies, one more grave to visit, even if only in the mind.
Of course, action must be taken to redress the wrongs of rape and prevent its happening again. The Texas bishops stress this in their statement: "While no human rights organization should turn away from the suffering that women face daily in the form of sexual violence, it should not prioritize a mother's life above that of her unborn child. It is better to advocate advancing her educational and economic standing in society and resist all forms of violence and stigmatization against her and her child." In other words, it would be better to direct our energies to measures that will actually make life better for women. Abortion advocacy is, in this instance, a stop-gap measure at best and at worst a distraction from the real work that needs to be done.
At best, decriminalizing abortion is a temporary solution to a thorny set of problems. If hiding the fact of a rape keeps a woman from being stigmatized, that's still only temporary solution to removing the stigma of rape. If abortion means one less mouth for a refugee mother to feed, that still doesn't return the mother to her homeland. After all, keeping one's mouth shut in Burma keeps one out of prison, but that doesn't address the issue of human rights in Myanmar. AI and other human rights organizations do better when they work on addressing the real problems. Fortunately for those of a philanthropic bent, there are plenty of organizations that focusing on improving the status of women and children and reducing the victimization of those groups. Heifer International is one, for starters; there are plenty of others to absorb any donations withheld from AI.