Abortion: The First Human Rights Abuse

by Ken Ong

June 15, 2007

Torture, political imprisonment, sexual slavery, genocide – these are a few of the examples one would think of when it comes to human rights abuses. These are heinous abuses that not only Catholics, but all people of good will should fight. But in this list of atrocities, many people can forget that abortion is the earliest and most fundamental attack on human rights.

Until recently, Amnesty International documented and decried China's policy of coercive abortion as a human rights abuse. But earlier this year, Amnesty International changed its generally neutral stance on abortion in favor of a policy supporting abortion rights for any woman who "becomes pregnant as the result of rape, sexual assault, or incest, or where a pregnancy poses a risk to a woman's life or a grave risk to her health." "Health" can and has been interpreted very broadly, and so this new policy opens the door to abortion on demand. By pitting women's "rights" over the right to life of the unborn, this policy will increase the injustice unborn babies suffer worldwide everyday.

A mother's womb should be the place where the smallest of God's children are nurtured and protected, but abortion advocacy makes the womb a place of violence and bloodshed. Human rights groups like Amnesty International should fight to protect the beginning of life as much as they fight to stop the abuses affecting those already born, since the right to life is the foundation for every other human right.

Amnesty International's new policy fails to recognize not only the dignity of the child, but also the reality that many women suffer mentally, emotionally and physically after abortion. The regret from taking part in the death of their child can leave lifelong sorrow. People often don't consider that men can suffer too. Men who encouraged or who didn't have the power to stop the abortion can also be greatly impacted by the loss of their child.

Amnesty International should reconsider their new policy. If they attack the fundamental right to life, the foundation for all other human rights, then they have no credible grounds to stand upon to promote other human rights. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

As a people of faith, we have to work to prevent human rights abuses from occurring, most importantly, in the womb. We must strive to increase respect for human life from conception to natural death, to prevent abortions and the suffering of men and women. We must all work together to protect those unable to speak for themselves, born or soon to be born.

Ken Ong is the former Staff Assistant to the Executive Director at the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.