The Helms Amendment is a U.S. policy that has prevented countless women from getting the reproductive care they need. Most people think the policy, which has been in place for more than 40 years, enforces a complete ban on U.S. foreign assistance for abortion — including in cases where a woman needs an abortion because of rape or incest, or because her life is in danger. But the policy doesn’t have to be interpreted that way.
President Obama has said he cares about women worldwide, and he has the power to fix the Helms Amendment, but he missed an important deadline. When PAI and a coalition of domestic and international family planning groups asked the President to fix the Amendment by July 30th, he failed to act. What is he waiting for?
Helms only restricts the use of foreign aid for abortion “as a method of family planning.” Therefore, abortions conducted as a result of rape or incest, and abortions to save women’s lives, are eligible for U.S. support. Restricting abortion care and services hurts women, period. And restrictions with no exceptions hurt women in the most vulnerable circumstances.
Other U.S. policies—like the Global Gag Rule and the Hyde Amendment—include exceptions for rape, incest and life endangerment, and even conservative lawmakers accept these common-sense provisions. It’s time for President Obama to correct this inequity, and inform U.S. agencies that they can support safe abortion under these narrow circumstances. Every second he waits puts women at risk.So what can you do? Share our infographic about the Helms Amendment, tweet at the White House directly, and read our policy brief. And don’t forget to share our Presidential Inaction Tracker with your friends. We’ll be updating this page regularly — so be sure to check back for more updates and opportunities for action.