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Another Effort to Get Obama to Do the Right Thing on Helms

August 12, 2015

Today, 81 members of Congress released a letter calling on President Obama to take action on his administration’s continued harsh interpretation of the Helms Amendment, which effectively eliminates access to safe and legal abortion for many women around the world. Led by Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D-NY) and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), the letter asked the president to issue new guidance so that Helms would allow the US to, in limited cases, support the world’s most vulnerable women with access to the healthcare they need.

Rep. Schakowsky, a longtime champion of reproductive rights, said, “I do not believe we should be imposing any restriction on access to abortion. But at the very least, we should not impose restrictions that go beyond current law.”

“Obama’s presidency has been a profoundly disappointing one when it comes to sexual and reproductive health,” said Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice. “The administration has repeatedly listened to the bishops and other conservative religious leaders, rather than listening to the majority of people of faith who want sexual and reproductive freedom guaranteed for themselves and everybody else.

“For six years, Catholics for Choice has worked with other organizations pleading with President Obama to end the current implementation of Helms,” continued O’Brien. “His failure to act on Helms leaves me bereft of any hope for the change that he once promised all of us.”

Since 1973, the Helms Amendment has banned the use of US foreign assistance for “the performance of abortion as a method of family planning.” The language has been improperly construed as a blanket prohibition on the use of US aid for abortion services, regardless of the circumstances.

“Catholics for Choice is proud to be joined by such strong leaders in Congress, who have both the courage and conviction to urge the president to do the right thing by taking immediate action to save the lives of women and girls around the world. It is one thing for the White House to rely on rhetoric about women and girls, and quite another to take action when it certainly is within their control,” said O’Brien.

Read the letter.