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Congresswoman proposes bill to ‘expand abortion access globally’ by repealing Helms amendment

Rep. Schakowsky says 'abortion is health care' and the Helms amendment is 'deeply rooted in racism'

Updated: July 29, 2020 - 10:33pm

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Illinois Democratic Rep. Jan Schakowsky is leading a House effort to eliminate the Helms Amendment, which prohibits U.S. foreign assistance funding from paying for abortion services.

The Health Care Everywhere Act of 2020 would repeal the amendment and “expand abortion access globally,” according to Schakowsky’s office. The amendment has been incorporated into the appropriations bills that Congress passes since its original adoption in 1973.

Schakowsky said that “abortion is health care” in the United States and the Helms amendment, named after former North Carolina Republican Sen. Jesse Helms, is “deeply rooted in racism.”

“It imposes our arbitrary and medically unnecessary abortion restrictions on international communities, allowing the United States to control the health care and bodily autonomy of billions Black and brown people around the world,” she said Wednesday. “Just like the Hyde Amendment, the Helms Amendment puts reproductive and economic freedom out of reach for women of color.”

Democratic Reps. Ayanna Pressley, of Massachusetts, Nita Lowey, of New York, Barbara Lee, of California, and Jackie Speier, of California, are among the co-sponsors of the bill.

Lowey, House Appropriations Committee chairwoman, called the Helms Amendment “a shameful policy” that should be repealed.

If it passes out of the Democratic-led House, the bill faces an uphill climb in the GOP-led Senate, given that most Republicans oppose the use of taxpayer dollars to fund abortion services.

Activists groups such as Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union are supporting the Health Care Everywhere Act of 2020 to repeal the Helms Amendment.



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