The impact of U.S. policy — at home and abroad

Soon after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973, the U.S. Congress enacted two laws that continue to hinder efforts to improve the health and lives of women worldwide.

The Helms Amendment to the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act prohibits the use of U.S. funds for the performance of abortion as a method of family planning or to motivate or coerce any person to practice abortions. Even in countries where abortion is legal, providing information and counseling on abortion is restricted in U.S.-funded facilities. Organizations and health-care agencies receiving U.S. funding are forced to stand by as women have unsafe abortions and die—even though the technologies to prevent those deaths are known and affordable.

The Hyde Amendment, approved by Congress in 1976, is the U.S. domestic counterpart to the Helms Amendment. It prohibits Medicaid, the U.S. government health program that serves low-income women and families, from covering abortion services. Exceptions are permitted in the cases of rape, incest and danger to the life of the woman. Subsequent domestic abortion-related restrictions have also denied coverage for federal employees, military veterans, Peace Corps Volunteers, and incarcerated women.

Ipas believes these policies violate the basic civil liberties and human rights of women and is working to reform these and other restrictive laws and policies that harm women.

Watch the video to hear directly from African and Asian leaders how the Helms Amendment impacts women in their communities.