Democrats Introduce Bill to Repeal Amendment Barring U.S. Funds to Provide Abortion Overseas

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D., Ill.) Photo: Tom Williams/AP
Tom Williams/AP

House Democrats launched a bill Wednesday that would repeal a long-standing amendment that blocks U.S. foreign aid programs from contributing to abortion overseas.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) introduced the measure, dubbed the Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act of 2020, which seeks to repeal the Helms Amendment, a provision that passed in 1973 after the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Roe v. Wade.

Reps. Nita Lowey (D-NY); Barbara Lee (D-CA); Jackie Speier (D-CA); Ayanna Pressley (D-MA); Diana DeGette (D-CO); and Norma Torres (D-CA) joined Schakowsky as original co-sponsors of the bill.

The narrative of the abortion lobby and its political allies is that policies that block abortion are racist.

Schakowsky said in a statement:

The Helms Amendment is a policy deeply rooted in racism. It imposes our arbitrary and medically unnecessary abortion restrictions on international communities, allowing the United States to control the health care and bodily autonomy of billions Black and brown people around the world. Just like the Hyde Amendment, the Helms Amendment puts reproductive and economic freedom out of reach for women of color. But enough is enough, and both amendments must fall if we want to realize true health equity and reproductive justice.

“Comprehensive reproductive health care, including safe, legal, and accessible abortion, is a human right,” Schakowsky added.

As family and human rights organization C-Fam noted, the Helms Amendment came about by amending the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to ban U.S. funds for the promotion or provision of abortions outside of the country.

Pressley, chair of the Abortion Rights and Access Taskforce of the Pro-Choice Caucus, also said in a statement that “[a]bortion care is health care and health care is a fundamental human right.”

“For too long, anti-choice policy, including the Helms Amendment and the Hyde Amendment, has dictated who has access to critical healthcare, economic opportunity and bodily autonomy,” she continued. “We must be consistent in our calls to dismantle racist policies that perpetuate inequities and exacerbate health disparities for Black and brown people here in the United States and around the globe.”

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