Monday, September 8, 2014 | News

Health and human rights organizations call for end to unnecessary restrictions that harm women’s health worldwide

Diverse coalition of 80 groups calls on Obama Administration to allow U.S. foreign assistance for abortion care

Washington, DC (September 8, 2014) – In a letter
to President Obama, a broad-based coalition of leading domestic and
global organizations spanning women’s rights, health, human rights,
reproductive justice, young people, the LGBT community, faith, and
development are calling for an end to the incorrect implementation of
the Helms Amendment in order to save women’s lives and protect their

The Helms Amendment
prohibits the use of U.S. foreign assistance funds “to pay for the
performance of abortions as a method of family planning.” For more than
40 years, the law has been incorrectly implemented as a complete ban on
all abortion-related services. The letter urges swift action to allow
support for abortion care for women who have been raped, who are victims
of incest, or who face a life-endangering pregnancy in countries where
those services are legally available.

“Women already face enormous obstacles to care,” said
Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
“In reinterpreting the Helms Amendment, the Obama administration has an
unprecedented opportunity to help women in desperate need around the
world. President Obama must continue to be a champion for women’s health
by providing clear guidance for U.S. foreign assistance programs that
serve the poorest women, including refugees and others in vulnerable

Women in developing countries should no longer be condemned to suffer or die because of this harmful policy
and the way it has been applied – preventing health providers from
serving the needs of their patients and leaving many women with no
options for safe care,” added Elizabeth Maguire, president and CEO of Ipas, an international reproductive rights organization that helped mobilize support for the letter.

“The current policy of the United States compounds the trauma of women who have been raped or face life-threatening pregnancies
by unnecessarily denying them assistance in obtaining essential and
potentially lifesaving care,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of
the Center for Reproductive Rights. “President Obama has shown
leadership previously in defending women’s rights and we hope he
continues to do so by fixing the United States’ faulty and harmful
implementation of the Helms Amendment.”

The letter provides further background on the groups’
concerns, stating that women around the world face high rates of
gender-based violence, limited access to trained health care providers,
and financial and geographic barriers to access comprehensive
reproductive health care, including safe and legal abortion. Every year,
an estimated 287,000 women die from complications related to pregnancy
and childbirth – 13% of those deaths are the result of unsafe abortion.
Close to half of those who die from unsafe abortion are younger than the
age of 25. While no single policy can address the broad challenges that
affect women in developing countries each day, the administration can
take an important step by correcting its implementation of the Helms

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Planned Parenthood is the nation’s
leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care
for women, men, and young people, as well as the nation’s largest
provider of sex education. With more than 700 health centers across the
country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care
and compassion, with respect and without judgment. Through health
centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources,
Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable health information
that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this
because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives.

Ipas is a global nongovernmental organization
dedicated to ending preventable deaths and disabilities from unsafe
abortion. Through local, national and global partnerships, Ipas works to
ensure that women can obtain safe, respectful and comprehensive
abortion care, including counseling and contraception to prevent future
unintended pregnancies.

The Center for Reproductive Rights is a global legal advocacy organization that fights to ensure reproductive rights are guaranteed in law as fundamental human rights. For more information about the Center for Reproductive Rights’ work, please visit:

For more information, contact

About Us

We work with partners around the world to advance reproductive justice by expanding access to abortion and contraception.

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The global movement for legal, accessible abortion is growing. Our staff and partners in countries as diverse as Bolivia, Malawi and India are working to ensure all people can access high-quality abortion care.

Where We Work

The global movement for legal, accessible abortion is growing. Our staff and partners in countries as diverse as Bolivia, Malawi and India are working to ensure all people can access high-quality abortion care.


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