Democrat Lawmakers and Abortion Advocates Pressure Biden to Fund Overseas Abortions

By | August 18, 2022

WASHINGTON, D.C., August 19 (C-Fam) Prior to the Congressional August recess, Democrat lawmakers and abortion advocates joined in an effort to pressure the Biden administration to gut a 50-year-old law that prevents American tax money from funding abortions around the globe.

Abortion advocates have long sought the repeal or redefinition of the Helms amendment. Since its implementation, the amendment has banned U.S. funding from being used for abortion or abortion counseling. Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC) spearheaded the legislation in 1973 after the Supreme Court established abortion as a federal right in Roe v. Wade, and to shut down the abortion activity occurring within the U.S. Agency of International Development. It amended the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, which governs all foreign aid.

The June Supreme Court decision reversing Roe has led to an abortion bill blitz by Democrat lawmakers. It has also been the impetus to advance abortion in U.S. foreign policy, but the Helms amendment is a key obstacle.

A legislative repeal of the Helms amendment was proposed in late July by Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ). In addition to permanently repealing Helms, the Act would establish abortion as a “critical component” of healthcare in U.S. foreign assistance allowing for abortion training, commodities, and equipment. It is the first time such a bill was introduced in the Senate.

Booker and his Senate colleagues claim that Helms has been overapplied and that the statute as it is written could allow exceptions for rape, incest and to preserve the mother’s life.

Yet, in reviewing Congressional records of the debate on the passing of the Helms amendment, it is clear that Senator Helms believed the inclusion of the language “as a method of family planning” expanded the application of the law to prohibit funding not only for providing abortions, but also for abortion-related counseling.

A group of pro-abortion and LGBT rights organizations used the occasion to petition the Biden administration to redefine the Helms amendment and authorize “USAID reproductive health funding to the full extent of the law.”  The organizations claim that USAID and the State Department can selectively fund abortion “without breaching any congressionally imposed limits on abortion funding.”

“USAID and the State Department can take tangible steps to mitigate the harmful global impacts of the Supreme Court ruling, immediately, by clarifying the exceptions to U.S. restrictions on abortion funding,” the letter states.

Such a “clarification” would in fact redefine and effectively gut the Helms Amendment, which has always been interpreted as absolute, including banning U.S. procurement of abortion devices for use overseas.  To create even ostensibly narrow exceptions would require the U.S. to ensure funding to train and supply abortion providers.  Once these mechanisms are established, ensuring their use only in exceptional cases would be extremely difficult, especially overseas.

Signatories include prominent global abortion groups, including several U.S. global health grant recipients awarded tens of millions of dollars including Pathfinder and International Planned Parenthood Foundation.

Democrat senators followed with their own letter addressed to USAID Administrator Samantha Power.  The letter asks that guidance be sent to all in-country aid recipients clarifying that the decision overturning Roe has no impact on their ability to provide abortions.

Over the last two years, President Biden, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Democratic leaders have pledged to repeal the Helms amendment the last two years, even though polls suggest it remains a popular law with U.S. voters. In recent days, even Jesse Helm’s granddaughter who works for a staunch global abortion group, called for her grandfather’s signature amendment to be overturned.