Amnesty International Responds to Scottish Catholic Education Service

Amnesty International

Wednesday 19 September 2007. For immediate use.

Statement re Amnesty International groups in Scottish Catholic Schools

Responding to a public statement by Michael McGrath, Director of the Scottish Catholic Education Service, that he would expect “no Catholic school would now officially affiliate themselves with Amnesty” John Watson, Amnesty’s Programme Director Scotland, said:

“We would regret any suggestion that Catholic schools should shut down their Amnesty International youth groups and we would welcome an opportunity to discuss this matter directly with the Catholic authorities.

“We understand the Catholic Church’s position on the subject of abortion and entirely respect their right to hold these views. There is much more that unites than divides us when it comes to human rights and Amnesty’s work.

However, as there has been some public confusion over where Amnesty stands on the abortion issue we will be writing to Mr McGrath, to Cardinal O’Brien and to other representatives of the Catholic hierarchy in Scotland, to clarify our position. We particularly want to correct any suggestions that Amnesty seeks to promote abortion as a universal human right. We will clarify that Amnesty is not pro-abortion but does seek to remove criminal sanctions against women who seek an abortion and for abortion services to be available to women who are victims of rape or incest or whose health is at grave risk from the pregnancy.

We have sought to make clear that Amnesty would not ask or expect any school or young person to campaign on an issue with which they disagreed. Given that we understand that the Catholic Church differs from Amnesty on this particular issue, it follows that we would not ask or expect youth groups at Catholic schools to take action on this issue. “We hope that we can offer sufficient reassurances to the Bishop and school principals on this point, so that young people attending Catholic schools in the diocese can continue their important work for human rights worldwide.”

School groups make an important contribution to Amnesty campaigns against a variety of human rights abuses across the world. Over the next year we will continue to campaign globally to stop violence against women, for the achievement of greater human rights in China in the run up to the Olympics, to ensure that our own human rights are not compromised as our governments seek to protect us from terrorist acts, and generally on behalf of individuals worldwide who are imprisoned for their beliefs or have their human rights denied. We would hope therefore that young people attending Catholic schools in Scotland can continue their important work for human rights worldwide.”


For further information, John Watson on 0131 313 7012 07818 453 070

Notes to Editors:

Following a two-year consultation with over 2 million members worldwide, Amnesty International policy now supports:
The decriminalisation of abortion. This means that, where women have made the decision to seek termination of a pregnancy, neither they nor the staff performing the procedure will be subject to legal sanctions. This is to avoid abortions being performed outside the law (or “underground”) with the implications this has for women’s safety;
Access to quality medical services for the management of complications arising from an abortion;
Access to legal and safe abortion, if desired and within reasonable gestation limits, in the cases of rape, sexual assault, incest or where there is a grave risk to the health of the woman.

Amnesty International has not decided to campaign for abortion as a “right”, and as an organisation we will continue to remain silent on the rights and wrongs of abortion.

Contact: John Watson
Phone: 0131 313 7012