Gender and the Law Prof Blog

Editor: Tracy A. Thomas
University of Akron School of Law

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Congress Introduces Legislation to Repeal Helms Amendment Prohibiting US Foreign Aid for Abortions

First-Ever Legislation to Repeal Helms Amendment: Abortion is Healthcare Everywhere Act

Today, Congress introduced the Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act of 2020—the first-ever legislation to repeal the Helms Amendment. The bill was introduced by Rep. Jan Schakowksy (D-Ill.) and co-sponsored by Reps. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) and Norma Torres (D-Calif.).

 

Established in 1973 (notably the same year as the Roe decision), the Helms Amendment—introduced by former Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), an ultraconservative senator marked by blatant racism and other odious behavior—dictates U.S. foreign aid cannot be used for abortions.

 

Though there are exceptions for rape, incest and threat to the pregnant person’s life, in practice, the Helms Amendment has created a complete ban on abortion funding abroad—even in countries where abortion is legal.

 

Since its enactment, the Helms Amendment has been criticized as an imperialist, ideological, racist and classist policy.

 

“The Helms Amendment is a policy deeply rooted in racism,” said Rep. Schakowsky. “It imposes our arbitrary and medically unnecessary abortion restrictions on international communities, allowing the United States to control the health care and bodily autonomy of billions of Black and brown people around the world.”

 

Moreover, many argue abortion restrictions like Helms have led to the avoidable deaths of thousands of women by coercing them to seek unsafe alternatives.

 

According to the Guttmacher Institute, 35 million women per year have abortions in potentially lethal conditions. What’s more, unsafe abortions are one of the leading causes of maternal mortality worldwide. 

The bill is here: Abortion is Healthcare Everywhere Act: "To amend the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to authorize
the use of funds for comprehensive reproductive health care services, and for other purposes."

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/gender_law/2020/08/congress-introduces-legislation-to-repeal-helms-amendment-prohibiting-us-foreign-aid-for-abortions.html

Abortion, International, Legislation, Reproductive Rights | Permalink

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