Congressional Democrats have introduced a bill that seeks to repeal the Helms Amendment and allow the United States to fund abortions anywhere on the planet.
The Helms Amendment — which amended the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 — prohibits the use of foreign aid to pay for abortion as a method of family planning or to motivate or coerce an individual into obtaining an abortion.
“We know that many countries have used Roe to support liberalizing their abortion laws and now face challenges,” Senator Tina Smith, one of the bill’s co-leads, told Newsweek. “That’s why it’s critical for the United States to help protect and expand access to reproductive health care.”
This is not the first time legislation has been introduced attempting to repeal the Helms Amendment. A similar bill sponsored by Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) was introduced in 2021.
The House also introduced H.R. 7816 and H.R. 1670 in 2020 and 2021, respectively.
Proponents claim repealing the Helms Amendment would “significantly affect access to legal abortion in a large number of countries,” primarily those in Africa.
Because of U.S. policies, “Governments who were maybe dependent on U.S. government funding for a large part of their national budget, they became less friendly towards sexual reproductive health and rights,” Sarah Shaw, head of advocacy at MSI Reproductive Choices, told Newsweek.
“The U.S. is the largest multilateral donor of family planning and reproductive health dollars. These policies that basically single out abortion cause such fear, such confusion, such avoidance that what we hear from our country directors working throughout the world, working in 18 countries, is that there is a firm belief that the U.S. government does not support abortion at all through U.S. foreign assistance,” she said.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 30 women die for every 100,000 unsafe abortions.
The WHO also says that developing countries bear the burden of 97 percent of all unsafe abortions.