Helms Amendment

The Helms amendment was first enacted in 1973 and states that, “No foreign assistance funds may be used to pay for the performance of abortion as a method of family planning or to motivate or coerce any person to practice abortions.”

USAID has interpreted this amendment to prohibit U.S. funding of abortions that would preserve the physical or mental health of a woman, yet allow it for victims of rape or incest, or to save a woman’s life. However, the U.S. has never funded any programs that include abortion services, even in these legally permitted cases.

Worldwide, about 47,000 women die from unsafe abortion every year, and thousands more women suffer from life-threatening injuries due to unsafe abortion procedures. As countries around the world are reforming their abortion laws in recognition of this major contributor to maternal mortality and morbidity, they are handcuffed in developing modern service provision by the prohibition on U.S. assistance for safe abortion. Poor women are disproportionately affected by this policy, as they often lack the resources to obtain a safe abortion.