President Obama

Still has time to fix the Helms Amendment and stand up for women worldwide.

Helms Hurts

Helms: A broken policy

Every woman should have access to safe, affordable abortion care. Sadly, the United States government imposes numerous restrictions in the U.S. and overseas on funding for abortion services. However, in most cases, lawmakers have at least made narrow exceptions for women who have been raped, are victims of incest or who are facing a life-endangering pregnancy.

The Helms amendment, named after the late anti-choice senator Jesse Helms is one of the policies that prevents women overseas from receiving comprehensive abortion care. Unlike other federal policies, it has also become an extreme, no-exceptions restriction on support for abortion care.


The Obama administration has misapplied the Helms amendment by prohibiting U.S. government funds from being used to provide safe abortion care even when a woman has been raped, is a victim of incest or her life is endangered by a pregnancy. Not only is this wrong, it is also out of step with other federal abortion policies well as the policies of other donor governments.

An estimated 290,000 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 unsafe abortion, a leading cause of maternal deaths. Additionally, nearly one in three women will face physical or sexual violence during her lifetime. Women who have experienced violence are also nearly twice as likely to have an abortion—regardless of whether or not safe abortion care is available.

The Obama administration should not stand between women and life-saving medical care, especially in countries where access is already often limited. U.S. humanitarian assistance works to improve the health, safety and dignity of all people. Denying safe abortion access to a woman who has been raped, or whose life is in danger because of a pregnancy undermines these values.

President Obama has the power to save women’s lives and end the incorrect implementation of the Helms Amendment. To date, his administration has made landmark strides in the advancement of human rights in the U.S. and around the world.

With one exception--support for women and girls overseas who have been raped, are victims of incest, or whose pregnancies put their lives at risk.

Will you join us in calling on President Obama to demonstrate his commitment to justice for women and girls globally by correcting the misapplication of the Helms Amendment? Tweet at @BarackObama using #helmshurts and tell President Obama to allow access to abortions in U.S. foreign assistance programs for women who become pregnant as a result of rape or incest, or face a life-threatening pregnancy.

Every 11 minutes a woman dies from an unsafe abortion. The time to act is now.
Helms Hurts
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