U.S. abortion restrictions on foreign aid impact the freedoms of speech and association and prevent women from accessing necessary healthcare, limit democratic debate, and restrain other countries from complying with their human rights obligations. In short, they violate international law.
U.S. Restrictions and International Law
The freedoms of speech and association are central to the democratic process and among the most fundamental human rights. Protected by Articles 19 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), these rights cannot be obstructed by governments unless restrictions pass a strict three-part test. The ICCPR requires that any restrictions on speech or association: (1) are provided by law; (2) have a legitimate aim; and (3) are necessary and proportionate to achieving that aim.1
U.S. abortion restrictions on foreign aid fail every part of the ICCPR’s test. Instead, the Helms Amendment, Siljander Amendment, and Global Gag Rule (see the Global Justice Center’s FAQ for an explanation of these restrictions)2 limit the provision of abortion services around the world and prevent individuals, organizations, doctors, and human rights advocates from speaking about abortion rights to patients, governments, and the public. Drawing from the Global Justice Center’s brief,3 the following examples demonstrate how these restrictions violate international law.