The U.S. government has a major role to play in the global effort to fight unsafe abortion. But two key U.S. foreign policies—the Helms Amendment and the Global Gag Rule—diminish that role by restricting women’s access to abortion and contraception in developing countries around the world.
The Helms Amendment prohibits the use of U.S. foreign assistance funds to pay for abortion “as a method of family planning.” Despite the limited scope of the amendment’s language, the U.S. government has applied it as a complete ban on the use of funds for abortion-related services and information.
The Global Gag Rule (also known as the Mexico City policy) restricts foreign nongovernmental organizations that receive U.S. global health funds from engaging in abortion-related work. It has been expanded under President Trump and directs U.S. government agencies to apply an unprecedented global anti-abortion policy.
In partnership with reproductive rights advocates in the United States and around the world, Ipas calls for the repeal of these harmful policies. And as we fight for full repeal, we are working for measures to lessen the far-reaching and dangerous impact these policies have on the lives and health of women.
– Gillian Kane, Ipas senior manager, policy
íThe Global Gag Rule doesn’t reduce abortion, it only makes abortion unsafe. What reduces the need for abortion is comprehensive sexuality education programs, access to contraceptives, and quality abortion services. The Global Gag Rule is a cruel policy, because it prevents the world’s most vulnerable women, the ones most in need of services, from receiving the information and care they have the right to.”
– María Antonetia Alacalde Castro, Director, Ipas Central America and Mexico
– Jorge Matine, Director, Ipas Mozambique
The Helms Amendment
The Helms Amendment is a 1973 U.S. legislative restriction that hinders efforts to address unsafe abortion around the world. It prohibits the use of U.S. foreign assistance funds to pay for “abortion as a method of family planning.” In practice, however, it is being applied as a total ban on abortion-related services and information.
In developing countries around the world, this ties the hands of government officials, reproductive health providers and U.S.-funded organizations working to ensure women’s access to comprehensive reproductive health care. In order to prevent a possible cut-off of U.S. funding, they avoid the provision of any services, information or even counseling related to safe abortion.
Ipas is committed to advocating for full repeal of the Helms Amendment and is working to document its harmful impact—and to educate U.S. legislators on the harm it does to women and girls in some of the world’s poorest countries. Along with partners, we’ve been laying the groundwork for repeal and building evidence that the public supports a full repeal of the amendment.
The Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act, introduced in the U.S. Congress on July 29 by Democratic Representative Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, would repeal the Helms Amendment—a racist policy that for nearly 50 years has denied access to abortion services to Black and brown women living in low- and middle-income countries.
The Global Gag Rule
Ipas is working to document the terrible harm to women’s health and lives inflicted by the Global Gag Rule, which is already making it harder for women and girls around the world to exercise their right to safe, legal abortion care.
The Global Gag Rule is a U.S. policy that restricts foreign nongovernmental organizations that receive U.S. global health funds from engaging in abortion-related work—even if they are using their own funds. They are “gagged” from providing not only abortion services, but abortion counseling, referrals, medical advice, training and lobbying for the liberalization of abortion laws. This policy has been expanded under President Trump, and directs U.S. government agencies to apply an unprecedented global anti-abortion policy.
Trump’s war on reproductive freedom
Ipas President and CEO Anu Kumar talks about the global, national and local impacts of harmful US policies—including the Global Gag Rule—that destroy reproductive rights around the world.
In this webinar, learn what US grantees can and cannot do under the Global Gag Rule, and how it impacts the work of Ipas and our partners
Proven again: Legal restrictions on abortion harm women’s health
The evidence has shown for years that restricting abortion does not prevent abortion—it simply pushes women to illegal and unsafe abortions. An important new study published in The Lancet Global Health further confirms those findings.
– Patty Skuster, Ipas senior legal advisor