Monday, October 25, 2021 | News

Missed opportunity to fully promote and protect sexual and reproductive health and rights globally

We applaud the Biden-Harris Administration and the White House Gender Policy Council (GPC) for releasing the first-ever National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality. The strategy provides a roadmap for closing gaps in gender justice and addresses intersectional injustices in the United States and abroad across 10 cross-cutting priorities.  Yet, the GPC strategy is a missed opportunity to demonstrate the United States’ leadership in advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights abroad, including the right to safe abortion.

The GPC importantly establishes abortion as an essential health care service and a constitutional right, and it reaffirms its support for codifying Roe v. Wade in law. The strategy supports the repeal of the Hyde Amendment because “health care should not depend on a person’s income or zip code” and it calls for the end of the Global Gag Rule that has been used as a political football to restrict women’s access to critical reproductive health information and services.

While this is a major step in promoting the health, rights, and bodily autonomy of people in the U.S. and globally, other U.S. policies continue to deny people access to health care they are legally entitled to by restricting U.S. funding. The strategy fails to mention the Helms Amendment, an egregious U.S. foreign policy that prevents millions of people living in low-to-middle income countries from accessing abortion services that they want and need.

Each year, 35 million unsafe abortions  occur in low- and middle-income countries, resulting in tens of thousands of preventable deaths and injuries. Using the power of U.S. foreign assistance, the Helms Amendment denies availability of safe, legal abortion, denies health care providers life-saving equipment and training, and censors critical abortion information and counseling.

The Biden Administration has made significant strides in undoing the harms of previous administrations, but so much more needs to be done to advance reproductive health, rights, and freedom. The Helms Amendment must be repealed to ensure bodily autonomy for people no matter who they are or where they live.

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