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.”

While "as a method of family planning" is not defined in the amendment, the federal status quo on abortion restrictions suggests that this excludes, at the very least, cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment. Nevertheless, USAID has consistently misinterpreted the Helms language to exclude funding for abortion services where it is not used as a method of family planning such as in the case of rape. USAID also does not support the purchase of certain equipment and commodities that could be used to perform abortions or to provide post-abortion care.

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.

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Source35In real terms, U.S. support for family planning is at the same level now as it was 35 years ago.

Source$15 billionLaunched in 2003 by President George W. Bush, PEPFAR pledged $15 billion over 5 years to combat global HIV/AIDS.