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Organizations Urge Obama to Stop Blocking Abortion Access for Women Overseas

For Immediate Release

Media Contact

Katie Unthank

Director of Strategic Communications

+1 (202) 557-3427


Today, PAI joins 70 other reproductive rights and human rights organizations in urging President Obama to take overdue action to protect the rights and health of women overseas who are survivors of rape, incest, or who are facing a life-threatening pregnancy.

Currently, the Helms Amendment prohibits the use of U.S. foreign assistance funds for abortions “as a method of family planning.” However, the Obama administration has misapplied the law by prohibiting U.S. government funds from being used to provide safe abortion care even in instances unrelated to family planning—cases where a woman has become pregnant due to rape or incest, or is facing a pregnancy that endangers her life.

The stern letter from the 71 organizations to the administration comes on the eve of the president’s trip to Kenya and Ethiopia—two countries impacted by the misapplication of the law—where abortion is legal in some or all of these cases.

“We want the president to understand the real impact of Helms on women’s lives when he visits Kenya and Ethiopia,” said Jonathan Rucks, director of U.S. government relations at PAI.

“Not only is the policy reprehensible, it undermines our own global health investments by restricting access to safe abortion, and is a primary barrier to women seeking the care they need.”

An estimated 289,000 women die each year in developing countries from pregnancy-related causes, and millions more suffer debilitating injuries. The majority of these deaths are preventable, particularly from unsafe abortion, a leading cause of maternal deaths.

According to PAI President Suzanne Ehlers, “The Obama administration should not stand between women and life-saving medical care, especially in countries where access is already often limited. The stakes are simply too high.”

Since last year, PAI has tracked every second of presidential inaction on the Helms Amendment through the website www.helmshurts.com to call attention to the urgency of the issue.

Read the letter from PAI and the 70 other organizations here.




PAI champions policies that put women in charge of their reproductive health. We work with policymakers in Washington and our network of partners in developing countries to remove roadblocks between women and the services and supplies they need. For 50 years, we’ve helped women succeed by upholding their basic rights. To learn more, visit pai.org.

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