Smith, Colleagues Introduce Legislation to Allow Use of U.S. Foreign Assistance for Abortion Care Oversees

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) joined a group of her colleagues in introducing legislation that would allow U.S. foreign assistance to be used to provide the full scope of comprehensive health care, including safe and legal access to abortion services. The Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act, led by Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), would repeal the 1973 Helms Amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act and clarify that under U.S. government policy, safe abortion care is a critical component of comprehensive maternal and reproductive care.

“Abortion care is a fundamental component of comprehensive reproductive health care and a basic human right,” said Sen. Smith. “I believe the United States has a responsibility to protect and uphold human rights. I also believe we need to continually strive to do better, both at home and abroad. That’s why I’m proud to introduce this critical legislation that would ensure that foreign assistance programs funded by our government are protecting and expanding access to safe abortion care.”

“We know that in the wake of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, Americans will be denied access to essential health care services across the United States; however, the repercussions also go beyond our borders. This disastrous decision will be felt around the world, setting back many countries who have long used Roe v. Wade as the basis to strengthen abortion rights protections in their own countries. We must take immediate action to mitigate the global impact of this decision,” said Sen. Booker. “For that reason, I am proud to introduce the Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act, which will repeal the Helms Amendment and ensure that U.S. foreign assistance can be used for safe abortion services overseas.” 

The Helms Amendment endangers lives by prohibiting U.S. foreign assistance from being used for “the performance of abortion as a method of family planning” abroad. However, in practice, the Amendment has been applied as a total ban on U.S. foreign aid being used to provide any abortion care service—including the provision of information—even in cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment, despite exemptions for these specific cases in statute. According to research by the Guttmacher Institute, repealing the Helms Amendment would lead to 19 million fewer unsafe abortions and 17,000 fewer maternal deaths each year.

Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) joined Senators Smith and Booker in introducing the legislation in the Senate. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) introduced H.R. 1670, the House companion bill, which now has 177 cosponsors.

“The Abortion is Healthcare Everywhere Act is important, particularly now with the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn our constitutional right to abortion. The end of Roe v Wade will not only have a devastating impact on abortion access in the U.S.; it will also have a damaging impact globally—for people who live thousands of miles from here,” said Dr. Anu Kumar, President and CEO, Ipas. “Repealing the Helms Amendment will save lives of millions of people who, for the last 50 years, have been denied access to lifesaving care because of U.S. foreign policies. We applaud Senator Cory Booker, the bill’s lead, and co-leads Senators Tina Smith, Tammy Duckworth, Mazie Hirono, and Richard Blumenthal for promoting and protecting reproductive health and rights for people everywhere.”

The Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act is endorsed by a diverse coalition of more than 180 organizations including Advocates for Youth, American Jewish World Service, Catholics for Choice, Center for Reproductive Rights, Guttmacher Institute, Ipas, NARAL Pro-Choice America, Open Society Policy Center, PAI, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Population Connection Action Fund, and Population Institute.