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Helms Amendment

After the Supreme Court recognized abortion as a constitutional right in 1973, the U.S. Congress passed the Foreign Assistance Act — a provision of which, the Helms Amendment, forbade the use of U.S. foreign aid from funding abortion. In the half-century since, the Helms Amendment — which has been interpreted and enforced in an “unnecessarily broad manner” and is opposed by a majority of Americans — has been extremely harmful, in a number of ways, to reproductive health globally.

Due to the amendment, USAID and State Department foreign assistance programs "do not support abortion care even in narrow cases of life, rape, and incest.” The Helms Amendment also censors health centers that are U.S. aid recipients from providing their patients with information on where and how to get a safe abortion. In turn, the amendment contributes to both the problem of unsafe abortions, which are responsible for millions of serious injuries and 47,000 deaths annually and account for 13 percent of maternal deaths around the world, as well as the U.S. government’s inability to address these issues. According to Ipas’ research, there is also significant confusion surrounding the Helms Amendment’s restrictions, with many global health providers resultantly eradicating critical reproductive health services so as not to lose funding. The Helms Amendment disproportionately impacts people in developing countries that rely the most on foreign aid — meaning that people who are low-income, young or victims of sexual violence are hit hardest.