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Global Justice Center Blog

48th Anniversary of Helms Letter

Dear President Biden,

We, the undersigned organizations, call on you to protect reproductive freedom and bodily autonomy for people across the globe by demonstrating your support for the repeal of the Helms Amendment. Failure to do so is in direct conflict with the priorities stated by this administration to “promote access to sexual and reproductive health and rights both at home and abroad.” We urge you to proactively protect essential human rights, including abortion, for people in other countries as well as our own. We appreciate the actions you have taken in support of sexual and reproductive health and rights, including repealing the Global Gag Rule and calling for increased UNFPA funding. However, simply reversing harm inflicted by the previous administration is not enough to make meaningful progress on health and human rights.

We write to you on this day specifically because it is the 48th anniversary of the passage of the Helms Amendment, which prohibits U.S. foreign aid from being used for “the performance of abortion as a method of family planning.” This provision is over-implemented as a total ban on abortion under any circumstance, denying millions of mostly Black and brown people in low-to-middle income countries the health care they want and need. Authored by the late Sen. Jesse Helms, this policy has roots in racism and neocolonialism, allowing the U.S. to police other countries through the power of foreign assistance and control their policies even in instances where countries have expanded abortion access. The result is drastic global health inequities, stifled bodily autonomy, and preventable death.

Last year, many of us called on your administration to support the "Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act," which repeals the Helms Amendment. The Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act now has over 170 cosponsors and is endorsed by a diverse coalition of over 175 organizations. The Helms Amendment was also successfully removed from the House-passed Fiscal Year 2022 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs appropriations bill. Despite growing momentum for repeal of the Helms Amendment, it remained in the FY22 President’s Budget and was not addressed in the recently released National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality, both missed opportunities to ensure bodily autonomy for people globally, no matter who they are or where they live.

Read the Full Letter

Tags: US Abortion Restrictions, Document Types/Letters