The United States has implemented so many abortion restrictions that it can be hard to keep them all straight. There’s the Global Gag Rule, the Hyde Amendment, the Domestic Gag Rule, and state-level TRAP laws and “heartbeat bills,” just to name a few. But one policy that tends to get overlooked, despite the immense harm that it causes, is the Helms Amendment.
The Helms Amendment, which was first enacted in 1973, is a permanent part of the United States Foreign Assistance Act that states, “No foreign assistance funds may be used to pay for the performance of abortion as a method of family planning or to motivate or coerce any person to practice abortions.” Though clearly intended to limit abortion funding for family planning purposes (bad enough), the Helms Amendment has always been interpreted, and enforced, as an outright ban on funding abortion for any reason—even in cases of rape, incest, or threat to the pregnant person’s life (even worse).
The amendment restricts access to safe abortion, even in countries where abortion is legal, and puts thousands of lives at risk. It’s a dangerous, imperialistic policy that hurts marginalized and vulnerable patients most. The Helms Amendment and the Global Gag Rule work alongside one another to limit global reproductive freedom and curtail access to necessary, life-saving health care services.
It’s crucial that we elect a president who will be a champion for global reproductive health and rights. Clearly we cannot count on Trump, who has spent his time in office severely restricting access to abortion both in the U.S. and around the world, to push Congress to repeal the deadly Helms Amendment. Fortunately, the top three Democratic candidates have all committed to working toward repealing Helms. Use our Helms Tracker to find out where each candidate stands on the issue, and ask those who haven’t stated a position to take action to #EndHelms.