In Brief: US Dems reintroduce bill to remove abortion funding limitations

A mobile billboard traverses the U.S. Capitol urging the Biden administration and Congress to ensure access to quality sexual and reproductive health care, including abortion care. Photo by: CHANGE & UltraViolet Commission

Several Democrats in the House of Representatives reintroduced the Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act on Tuesday in an effort to eliminate prohibitions on using U.S. foreign aid funding to support abortions.

The bill, which was reintroduced by Rep. Jan Schakowsky, a Democrat from Illinois, would repeal the so-called Helms amendment if it is passed. It was originally introduced last year and had 140 co-sponsors.

The background: The Helms amendement, which has been law since 1973, prohibits the use of any U.S. foreign assistance funds for “abortions as a method of family planning.” It does allow U.S. funding for abortion in cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment.

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“For more than 47 years the Helms amendment, a racist and colonial relic, has denied pregnant people abroad their right to make decisions about their own health and lives. It has intentionally and unfairly limited access to safe and legal abortion services, costing some their lives,” said Shannon Kowalski, director of advocacy and policy at the International Women’s Health Coalition, in a statement.

Advocates say that while President Joe Biden rescinding the “global gag rule,” officially known as the Mexico City Policy, was an important step, the U.S. should go further to ensure full access to sexual and reproductive health care.

Why it matters: Democrats have majorities in both the U.S. House and Senate for the first time in years, so advocates see this as an opportunity to pursue long-held ambitions to eliminate legislation barring U.S. funding from supporting abortions. The majorities are slim, however — particularly in the Senate — so this bill and similar legislation could still be difficult to pass.

About the author

  • Adva Saldinger

    Adva Saldinger is a Senior Reporter at Devex, where she covers the intersection of business and international development, as well as U.S. foreign aid policy. From partnerships to trade and social entrepreneurship to impact investing, Adva explores the role the private sector and private capital play in development. A journalist with more than 10 years of experience, she has worked at several newspapers in the U.S. and lived in both Ghana and South Africa.