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Abortion-Rights Groups Call on President Obama To Clarify Helms Amendment

Abortion-Rights Groups Call on President Obama To Clarify Helms Amendment

January 16, 2015 — Planned Parenthood Federation of America and other abortion-rights groups on Thursday made a new push in their ongoing campaign to encourage President Obama to clarify the interpretation of the Helms Amendment, which restricts U.S. foreign aid funding for abortion, The Hill reports.

According to The Hill, the renewed effort comes after abortion-rights groups successfully pushed for the inclusion of a provision in a government spending measure lifting a ban on abortion coverage for Peace Corps volunteers in cases of rape, incest or life endangerment (Viebeck, The Hill, 1/15).

Background

The amendment, enacted in 1973, states that "no foreign assistance funds may be used to pay for the performance of an abortion as a method of family planning or to motivate or coerce any person to practice abortions" (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/10/14). However, in practice, the amendment has been applied as a total ban on U.S. foreign aid funds for abortion care, according to Planned Parenthood and other supporters of abortion rights.

Meanwhile, opponents of abortion rights say the Obama administration should continue to interpret the Helms Amendment as a blanket ban on foreign aid funding for abortion care.

Campaign Details

Planned Parenthood in a coordinated campaign with the Center for Reproductive Rights, Ipas and other advocacy groups is calling on Obama to clarify interpretation of the amendment, Politico Pro reports (Politico Pro, 1/15). Planned Parenthood announced the renewed effort in an email to supporters on Thursday.

Specifically, the groups are urging Obama to specify that U.S. foreign aid funding is allowed to pay for abortions in cases of rape, incest and endangerment to a woman's life in countries where abortion is legal (The Hill, 1/15).