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Abortion Causes Rift at Amnesty International. Irish Office Opts Out of Controversial Policy
DUBLIN, Ireland, AUG. 17, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Ireland's branch of Amnesty International will not promote the organization's new policy of allowing abortion in cases of rape, incest, or threats to the mother's life.

Noeleen Hartigan, director at Ireland's Amnesty International office, confirmed that the Irish branch is opting out of the controversial new policy, the Irish Times reported.

Catholic delegates attending an Amnesty International conference this week are likely to raise the issue, which has already received wide media attention.

A former member, Mary Stewart, told the Irish Times that she sent back her membership card in protest to the executive committee's decision to adopt the abortion policy.

Stewart explained, "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."

Amnesty International was started as a campaign for prisoners of conscience in 1961 by British lawyer and Catholic convert Peter Benenson.

Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977, its membership has swelled to 1.8 million members.

Kate Gilmore, Amnesty International's deputy secretary-general, said the decision from the Irish branch and criticism from U.S. bishops will not reverse the organization's abortion policy decision.

Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, recently told the National Catholic Register that Catholics would have to withdraw support from the organization if it continued to support abortion.

"By pushing for the decriminalization of abortion as part of their platform, Amnesty International has disqualified itself as a defender of human rights," he said. "If AI is no longer willing to stand up for the most basic human right -- the right to life -- then the very integrity of the organization is called into question."