Abortion Groups Push Biden on “Racist” Pro-Life Law 

By | May 6, 2021
Jesse Helms

North Carolina U.S. Senator Jesse Helms

WASHINGTON D.C., May 7 (C-Fam) Abortion groups asked the Biden administration to scrap long-standing abortion restriction in federal law in order to “bring US policy in line with its human rights obligations.”

“Congress must repeal the Helms Amendment entirely and the Administration must do all that it can to mitigate the harms of this egregious policy in the interim,” according to a letter to the White House from 140 organizations that promote abortion, LGBT rights, and racial justice.

The letter describes the Helms Amendment, which prohibits the use of U.S. foreign aid funds to pay for abortion abroad, as having “racist and neo-colonial roots.”

The abortion groups urge the Biden administration to allow U.S. foreign aid to be used to perform abortions “in cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment.”

Under the Helms amendment and other federal restrictions on abortion-related activity abortion groups cannot receive U.S. funding for humanitarian emergencies. U.S. humanitarian assistance dwarfs U.S. global spending on health. Many humanitarian groups don’t perform abortions because they want to remain eligible to receive U.S. funds and segregating U.S. funds would be impractical.

In the letter, the abortion groups ask the administration to drop the Helms amendment in annual budget appropriations battles and to issue guidance to skirt the Siljander Amendment, which prohibits U.S. foreign aid recipients from lobbying for changes in abortion laws abroad.

According to the abortion groups, U.S. abortion restrictions have been “over-implemented.”

They write that the Helms amendment only restricts the use of U.S. foreign assistance for “abortion as a method of family planning” but that it “does not include cases of rape, incest, or life-endangerment.”

For nearly fifty years, the Helms Amendment has been interpreted by both Democratic and Republican presidents as a complete prohibition on the use of U.S. taxpayer funds by foreign groups to perform abortion. The abortion groups claim this was a legal mistake and a violation of human rights.

The letter also recalls the recommendations of the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and other foreign powers to drop U.S. abortion restrictions in foreign aid. The recommendations were made at the United Nations Human Rights Council last year.

At the time, the Trump administration denied that the U.S. had any human rights obligation to fund abortion overseas. But last month, the Biden administration accepted the recommendations. Welcoming the recommendations signaled that the White House agrees with these foreign powers’ assessment that the federal restrictions on funding for abortion amount to human rights abuse.

The congressional record at the time the Helms amendment and other abortion restrictions were adopted by the Congress bears several motivations, chiefly of respecting the conscience of U.S. taxpayers and foreign doctors who do not want to be complicit in abortions. But throughout the years, congressional pro-life leaders have also stressed that abortion restrictions are necessary to protect racial and ethnic minorities from targeted population control.

“A failure to implement these recommendations would make the US commitment to the human rights system be mere rhetoric, and worse yet, rhetoric that is directly undermined by the failure to act,” Akila Radhakrishnan, President of the Global Justice Center is reported saying.

The Global Justice Center has spearheaded the campaign to reinterpret the Helms amendment, including coaxing foreign governments to pressure the U.S. government.