NGOs to Obama: Helms Amendment Hurts Women in Kenya

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Leading up to a scheduled visit by President Barack Obama to Kenya this week, 71 U.S.-based NGOs have written the President a letter asking him to learn more while he is there about the impact of restrictive U.S. policies on women’s health and human rights. 

Unsafe abortion is a significant cause of maternal deaths in Kenya, and health facilities treat 125,000 of women each year for complications of unsafe abortion. Women in Kenya also face high rates of sexual violence; survivors of sexual violence experience higher rates of unwanted pregnancy and unsafe abortion.   

In Kenya, the U.S. Agency for International Development supports programs that improve women’s health and prevent gender-based violence. The efforts of organizations implementing these programs are restricted by the Helms Amendment, which prohibits the use of U.S. foreign assistance funds for abortion “as a method of family planning.” The Obama Administration, as well as previous U.S. administrations, have implemented the law as a complete ban on all abortion-related services, even in cases of rape, incest and when a pregnancy threatens the life of a woman.

“The refusal to support abortion services in these instances contributes to needless maternal deaths and countless injuries,” said Ipas Senior Policy Advisor Jamila Taylor. “It violates the fundamental human rights of women and girls and is out of step with other federal abortion policies.”

In their letter to the President, NGOs asked him to take immediate action “…to end the incorrect—and harmful—implementation of the Helms Amendment.”