January 14, 2014 — Although "President Obama has often issued executive orders to get around recalcitrant Republicans in Congress or to clarify existing policy ... there are some areas where the president has been too reticent," including his failure to end "a longstanding misinterpretation of the Helms amendment," a New York Times editorial states.
The amendment "prohibits foreign aid money from being used to 'pay for the performance of abortion as a method of family planning or to motivate or coerce any person to practice abortions,'" the editorial explains.
While the amendment "clearly excludes cases of life endangerment, incest and rape," the editorial notes that both "Republican and Democratic administrations, including Mr. Obama's, have treated it as an absolute abortion ban," resulting in "women and girls subjected to rape in armed conflicts" not receiving the help they need.
In addition, women "with life-threatening pregnancies are denied assistance ... thwarting efforts to reduce unsafe abortions around the world," the editorial continues. The "misreading of the Helms amendment has also deterred foreign-aid recipients from providing factual information about abortion to the public," it notes.
The editorial urges Obama to "set matters right" on the Helms amendment (New York Times, 1/12).