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Global Justice Center Blog

The Rohingya Genocide — 5 Years Later

The Rohingya genocide began on August 25, 2017. The so-called “clearance operations” were marked by murder, sexual violence, and community destruction on a massive scale. UN experts, the United States government, and others have recognized this genocide. Yet, justice continues to be denied to the Rohingya.

Along with our partners at the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, we commemorate this historic crime and continue to stand in solidarity with the Rohingya and their struggle for justice.

USAID and State Department Urged to Take Steps to Implement Exceptions for Funding of Abortion Services Abroad

More than 100 international and domestic organizations today sent a letter to the U.S. State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) urging them to end overly restrictive interpretations of law that block the use of foreign assistance funds for abortion services in any circumstance.

The Helms Amendment prohibits foreign assistance funding for abortion services as a “method of family planning.” This means abortion services can be funded in cases of rape, incest and life endangerment. However, USAID and the State Department have never funded abortion services in these contexts.

Elena Sarver, legal advisor at the Global Justice Center, issued the following statement:

“We’ve said it for years: the president can end a devastating human rights violation with the stroke of a pen. For too long, US presidents have failed to take action to implement exceptions that permit funding of abortion care abroad in certain cases. The Biden administration can take immediate action to change that now.

“As the world’s largest provider of humanitarian aid worldwide, the US is in a unique position to deliver healthcare to those who need it most. But as a result of its incorrect interpretation of the Helms Amendment, it is routinely denying critical abortion care to victims of rape, incest, and in cases of life endangerment. In order to live up to its stated commitment to reproductive rights, the Biden administration should clarify these exceptions and implement funding for abortion in these cases.”

Letter to Biden Admin: Take Steps to Implement Exceptions for Funding of Abortion Services Abroad

Dear Secretary Blinken and Administrator Power,

As organizations dedicated to protecting and expanding global reproductive health, rights, and justice, including abortion access, we are heartened to hear that you maintain an unwavering commitment to sexual and reproductive health care. The recent Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization Supreme Court decision is a public health emergency that has and will continue to threaten the health and lives of people seeking essential health care services, not just for those in the U.S. but also for people globally. We are glad to see those in USAID and the State Department recognizing and calling out the devastation that this decision will bring worldwide and reaffirming your commitment to protect and care for those you serve.

We look forward to working alongside you in this critical endeavor towards reproductive freedom, bodily autonomy, and dignity for people worldwide. We encourage you to start meeting this commitment today by authorizing USAID reproductive health funding to the full extent of the law. Under current law, U.S. foreign assistance may not be used for abortion services as a means of family planning. This requirement, however, still allows USAID and the State Department to provide funding for abortion services in cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment. It also allows for abortion service information and counseling. However, USAID and the State Department do not and have never funded abortion services in these circumstances - even though they can do so without breaching any congressionally imposed limits on abortion funding.

Download the Full Letter

Key Points for the CERD Committee’s Review of the United States: Abortion Restrictions are a Form of Racial Discrimination

Abortion Restrictions violate the right to health of women of color and perpetuate racial discrimination

Women and adolescents of color disproportionately suffer as a result of abortion restrictions. 

  1. Women of color have a greater need for abortion care due in large part to the social, economic, and geographical barriers that limit access to healthcare, including contraception.

  2. Systemic racism in the US criminal legal system means that women of color face a heightened risk of criminal prosecution for abortion. Pregnant people, particularly Black, Hispanic, and Indigenous women, are already policed and criminally punished for pregnancy outcomes.
  3. Being forced to carry a pregnancy to term is especially dangerous for Black women in the US, who are three times more likely than white women to die from pregnancy-related causes. 
  4. The economic costs and unpaid care burden of forced parenting are more challenging for women of color than for white women - women of color are already more likely to live below the poverty line, receive low wages, experience unemployment and suffer labor discrimination than white women. 

US foreign policy (including the Helms Amendment) severely undermines access to abortion for women and damages the health and lives of Black and brown women in Global South middle- and low-income countries. 

Recommendations

  • Take federal and state legislative steps to guarantee effective access to affordable, legal, and quality abortion care.
  • Remove the Helms Amendment restrictions on US foreign aid to ensure that development assistance and global health funds provide safe and quality abortion care and information.

Download Fact Sheet