July 27, 2022

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

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Tina Smith (D-MN) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), introduced the Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act, which would repeal the 1973 Helms Amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act to ensure that U.S. foreign assistance may be used to provide the full scope of comprehensive health care, including safe and legal access to abortion services. The bill also includes language clarifying that under U.S. government policy, safe abortion care is a critical component of comprehensive maternal and reproductive care.

“The fight to secure reproductive health care for all does not stop at our borders,” said Senator Hirono. “By ending the prohibition on foreign aid being used for abortion care, the Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act will help expand access to critical reproductive services in some of the world’s most vulnerable communities. As we fight to defend fundamental reproductive rights in the U.S., this legislation will help millions around the world exercise their right to access comprehensive reproductive health care services.”

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.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) introduced H.R. 1670, the House companion bill, which now has 177 cosponsors.

The full text of the legislation is available here.

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.

A long-time champion for abortion access, Senator Hirono is committed to protecting the fundamental right to abortion care for all. In addition to introducing the Right to Contraception Act last week, she also introduced the Expanding Access to Family Planning Act, to protect access to critical reproductive health care services, like birth control, and cancer screenings. Earlier this month, Senator Hirono also introduced the Freedom to Travel for Health Care Act of 2022, which clarifies that it is illegal for anti-choice states to limit travel for abortion services, and would empower impacted individuals to bring civil action against those who restrict a woman’s right to cross state lines to receive legal reproductive care.