March 23, 2023

Lee, Schakowsky, Booker, DeGette, Pressley, Torres (CA), Strickland Reintroduce the Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act

WASHINGTON —  U.S. Representative Barbara Lee, Co-Chair of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus, and U.S. Senator Cory Booker were joined by U.S. Representatives Jan Schakowsky, Diana DeGette, Ayanna Pressley, Norma Torres, and Marilyn Strickland in reintroducing their legislation, the Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act. In addition to the co-leads, the bill has 142 original cosponsors in the House.  

The Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act would repeal the 1973 Helms Amendment to the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act. This would ensure that U.S. foreign assistance may be used to provide the full scope of comprehensive health care, including access to safe and legal abortion services. The bill also includes language clarifying that under U.S. government policy, safe abortion care is a critical component of comprehensive maternal and reproductive care.

“As Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, I have seen again and again the consequences of a U.S. foreign policy that singles out and restricts abortion care,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee. “The disastrous Helms Amendment is more than a line item in our appropriations bills. It is more than a logistical challenge for recipients of U.S. foreign aid. It is a matter of life or death. I urge my colleagues to support this vital bill, finally repeal Helms, and ensure every community our foreign assistance dollars reach gets the care they need.”

"For nearly 50 years, the racist, harmful Helms Amendment has barred U.S. foreign assistance from being used to offer abortion care, even in countries where abortions are legal. The United States should not stand in the way of health care and bodily autonomy in other countries. Developing countries bear the burden of 97% of all unsafe abortions. We must protect women's health around the globe. By singling out abortion as a restricted health service, the Helms Amendment reinforces efforts to criminalize abortion and heightens abortion-related stigma,” said Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky. “I am proud to reintroduce the bicameral Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act with Senator Booker and Representatives Lee, DeGette, and Torres. Comprehensive reproductive health care, including safe, legal, and accessible abortion, is a human right."

“For decades, many countries around the world relied on Roe v. Wade to expand access to abortion care in their own countries,” said Senator Cory Booker. “In the wake of the disastrous decision in Dobbs v. Jackson, people across the globe have found their access to essential health services restricted. To ensure that all people have access to critical reproductive services, we must repeal the Helms Amendment and ensure that US foreign aid can be used for safe, legal abortion care overseas.”

“Abortion care is health care, and every woman around the world deserves the right to decide what’s best for her, her body, her health and her family,” said Congresswoman Diana DeGette. “For too long, the Helms Amendment has prevented women from accessing the care they need. We need to end this draconian policy once and for all to ensure every woman – both here in America and around the globe – can access the full range of health care they need, including abortion care.”

“For too long, anti-choice policies nationally and internationally have dictated who has access to critical health care, economic opportunity, and bodily autonomy,” said Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley. “Let’s be clear: abortion care is health care, and a fundamental right for everyone across the globe. The Helms Amendment is yet another barrier preventing millions – particularly in the global south – from accessing safe and legal abortion care, and we must reverse course. As we continue our work to protect and expand abortion access domestically, I am proud to once again join Congresswoman Schakowsky and my colleagues in this fight to repeal Helms and affirm abortion rights and reproductive justice for everyone, everywhere.”

“Every woman should have the ability to make her own personal medical decisions and access reproductive health care. The Helms Amendment hurts millions of people across the globe because it places limits on U.S. foreign assistance to fund abortion care. The Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act removes this harmful provision from federal policy and ensures strong reproductive rights are a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy, no matter who sits in the White House,” said Congresswoman Norma Torres. “This bill is the best path forward to deliver on the promise of a future where all women can safely access abortion care. As a Member of Congress, I will always fight for reproductive freedom, both at home and abroad.”

“As MAGA extremists unleash their assault on women’s rights, it is imperative to ensure reproductive health care for all,” said Congresswoman Marilyn Strickland. “The Helms Amendment makes it impossible for millions of women across the globe to seek reproductive care – including routine preventative screenings – barring economic mobility and worsening the maternal health crisis. I am introducing the Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act with Representative Schakowsky and over 140 of my colleagues today to repeal Helms, ensure equality, and continue the fight for women’s rights worldwide.”

The Helms Amendment endangers lives by prohibiting U.S. foreign assistance from being used for "the performance of abortion as a method of family planning" abroad. There are exceptions to the Helms Amendment, allowing for U.S. foreign assistance to provide abortion care in cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment, but in practice, Helms has been wrongly applied as a total ban on U.S. foreign aid being used to provide abortion care under any circumstance — even providing information or counseling on abortion, which is legal, is not occurring in many places around the world. According to research by the Guttmacher Institute, repealing the Helms Amendment would lead to 19 million fewer unsafe abortions and 17,000 fewer maternal deaths each year.