As leaders from around the world gather in New York for the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly to discuss urgent problems, the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has a message for the United States: New abortion restrictions in Texas violate women’s fundamental rights.
Reproductive rights champions in the House finally removed regressive anti-choice policies that disproportionately harm women, girls, LGBTQ people and others who already face systemic barriers to equal health care, and which polls show are not supported by a majority of U.S. voters.
On the evening of July 28, the House of Representatives adopted a State Department, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2022 that includes a multitude of funding and policy provisions that would be tremendous advancements for global sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) if enacted into law.
Soon after he took office, President Biden committed to protect the sexual and reproductive health and rights of people living in the U.S. and abroad. But by removing the Hyde Amendment from his budget but leaving in the Helms Amendment, he kept only half of that promise.
“State Department reporting on violations of reproductive rights should not be subject to whiplash between the policies of the occupants of the White House. Congress has an important role to ensure that the U.S. is consistently and unbiasedly reporting on the rights violations that impact women around the world, without political interference.”
Katherine Clark’s Reproductive Rights Are Human Rights Act would require the State Department include reporting on contraception and abortion access, STD rates and prevention efforts, maternal health, and rates and causes of pregnancy-related injuries and death, including unsafe abortions.
A coalition of over 140 reproductive rights and health care advocates has called on President Biden to mitigate the harm caused by the over-implementation of US foreign aid restrictions, especially the 50-year-old Helms Amendment, that has limited women’s access to and information about abortion overseas.
“The time has come,” Representative Jan Schakowsky, who re-introduced the Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act, said. “Abortion is health care and the Helms Amendment now has got to go.”
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) has reintroduced landmark legislation to repeal the Helms Amendment. As the president of Catholics for Choice, I am urging President Biden to center his Catholic upbringing and support this bill.
The Biden-Harris administration offers some hope for international reproductive health, rights and justice—but unless the Helms Amendment is repealed, people in low-to-middle income countries will continue to be denied access to abortion services.
The Helms Amendment—named for the late, self-proclaimed bigot, Senator Jesse Helms (R-N.C.)—prohibits U.S. aid for pregnancy terminations. It’s time to repeal the Helms Amendment and replace it with sound policy that supports full reproductive healthcare access. That is what women abroad deserve: our respect.