Ipas welcomes President Biden’s first steps to undo the harms of the previous administration’s dangerous and relentless attacks that robbed countless people of their ability to control their own bodies and access sexual and reproductive health care, including abortion. Rescinding the dangerous global gag rule; taking steps to strengthen Medicaid; initiating an open enrollment period; disavowing the Trump administration’s anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ+ Geneva Consensus Declaration, restoring funding to UNFPA for their critical reproductive and maternal health work around the world; and beginning the important process of reviewing the harmful domestic gag rule for the Title X program are important and impactful first steps.
However, this presidential memorandum falls short on many critical levels and fails to ensure that all people—including Black and brown women living overseas—truly have sexual and reproductive freedom. To expand access to reproductive health care, including abortion, the administration must go beyond rescinding the global gag rule, also known as the Mexico City Policy. The memorandum from the White House does nothing to advance reproductive justice. Instead, it maintains the pre-Trump status quo, one that was hardly progressive.
The Biden-Harris Administration’s order to rescind the Global Gag Rule was expected. We urge them to go further and support the Global HER Act and the Abortion is Healthcare Everywhere Act, which permanently repeal the Global Gag Rule and the Helms Amendment.
Under the Helms Amendment, all of US foreign assistance, some $40 billion, will remain unavailable for abortion services, information and even training and equipment. People—mainly Black and brown—living in low-to-middle income countries will still suffer under the Helms Amendment, even in cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment.
The Helms Amendment, a policy rooted in racism and colonialism, has been in effect for 48 years, and oppresses and controls the bodies of Black and brown women using the power of US funding.
We look forward to working with the Biden administration to immediately expand U.S. foreign assistance support for abortion care to the maximum extent allowed under the Helms Amendment, including for abortion information and counseling. This action would have an impact immediately for millions of people; patients at U.S.-funded clinics would finally be able to get the abortion information and comprehensive counseling they need so that they are able to make the best decision for themselves and their families. We are encouraged by the administration’s commitment to sexual and reproductive health and rights, which we know under international human rights law includes abortion.
We urge the administration and Congress to implement the Blueprint for Sexual and Reproductive Health, Rights and Justice, a comprehensive and proactive policy agenda endorsed by Ipas and more than 100 bold, progressive organizations. This critical work can start today by taking immediate action on all of the First Priorities, a detailed punch list of executive actions to advance sexual and reproductive health, rights, and justice for people in the U.S. and around the world.
And finally, abortion is health care. We urge President Biden not to avoid the word “abortion.” When people don’t use the word, it further stigmatizes and directly harms the very people who want and need access to reproductive healthcare, including abortion, as well as those who provide it.