The human rights organization Amnesty International has just issued a report on maternal mortality in Peru that promotes abortion in the pro-life nation while advancing controversial interpretations of international law.
The report, “Fatal Flaws: Barriers to Maternal Health in Peru,” also acknowledges that lack of emergency obstetric care – and not access to abortion – is the largest contributing factor to high maternal death rates in the Andean nation, while listing obstacles faced by poor, often indigenous, women in gaining access to basic maternal and newborn care.
The overall thrust of “Fatal Flaws,” however, is to claim a positive obligation by Peru and by extension other states to guarantee certain maternal health rights, which Amnesty then expands to include “therapeutic” abortion. In this Amnesty echoes the strategy of the pro-abortion Center for Reproductive Rights, which in recent years has pushed a “right to maternal health” that softens the abortion emphasis. Critics see this “motherhood and apple pie” approach as a Trojan Horse tactic designed to undermine resistance to terminating unborn life.
Amnesty asserts that “lack of access” to health care “is a violation of women’s human right to the highest attainable standard of health.” “Fatal Flaws” further claims that the Cairo Programme of Action adopted in 1994 at the International Conference on Population and Development – an “outcome document” that lacks binding international law status – commits states to providing “abortion to the full extent of national law.” The actual Cairo text is less sweeping: it acknowledges that it creates no new rights, cautions that in “no case should abortion be promoted as a method of family planning” and affirms that any “measures or changes related to abortion … can only be determined at the national or local level according to the national legislative process,” while also stating that where legal abortion should be safe.
Expanding on this, Amnesty faults Peru for failing “to respond appropriately and in a timely manner” to a non-binding “finding” of the Human Rights Committee – the compliance committee tasked with monitoring implementation of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights. The committee declared that Peru violated the treaty when a public hospital denied the demand of a mother pregnant with an anencephalic baby for a eugenic abortion. That treaty’s text, however, makes no mention of abortion, and there is no evidence that drafters intended to undo the domestic legislation of most nations, which either prohibited or severely restricted the practice at the time of adoption in 1966.
Founded in 1961 by a Catholic convert, Amnesty International previously maintained a neutral position on abortion, acknowledging as recently as 2005 that there exists “no generally accepted right to abortion in international human rights law.” The group’s subsequent pro-abortion advocacy has caused some to accuse the organization of betraying its founding principles.