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WASHINGTON — Today, Reps. Schakowsky (D-IL), Lowey (D-NY), Lee (D-CA), DeGette (D-CO), Speier (D-CA), Torres (D-CA), and Pressley (D-MA), introduced the Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act, legislation that would recognize abortion as essential health care and stop the egregious U.S. policy of creating barriers for those who need abortion access across the globe. Planned Parenthood applauds this overdue legislation and urges others to join the effort to end the Helms Amendment by cosponsoring the bill. 

For nearly 50 years, the Helms Amendment has blocked the use of U.S. foreign assistance to expand access to abortion services. By creating significant barriers to safe and legal health care globally, this policy endangers lives, stigmatizes abortion, and undermines our ability to advance health, human rights, and gender equality. The Helms Amendment hurts millions of people around the world by restricting the ability of individuals to make their own personal medical decisions, and denying access to comprehensive reproductive health care. This harm is focused on women and young people in low income countries around the world, including in humanitarian crises where sexual violence occurs at high rates and where displaced communities are particularly disconnected from health care. 

Statement from Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO, Planned Parenthood Federation of America: 

“Abortion is essential health care — period. Politicians in the U.S. should not be able to deny anyone’s access to health services, here in the U.S., or abroad. The Helms Amendment has always been a coercive policy, pushing the extreme ideology of a vocal minority in the U.S. on people in many of the lowest income countries in the world — people in need of health care. The policy is a stark example of neocolonialism, taking advantage of the uneven relationship between the U.S. and the countries that receive aid. Planned Parenthood thanks Reps. Schakowsky, Lowey, Lee, DeGette, Speier, Torres, and Pressley for being champions for sexual and reproductive health care. And we’re calling on others in Congress to support their efforts to repeal the Helms Amendment.”

Unsafe abortion is a global health crisis. Annually, there are more than 25 million unsafe abortions worldwide and they contribute to as many as 13.2% of maternal deaths each year. The Helms Amendment exacerbates this crisis by putting safe abortion care out of reach for those served by U.S. global health programs. U.S. policy should explicitly support access to safe and legal abortion throughout the world, as part of U.S. efforts to advance health, human rights, and gender equity.

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Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education. With more than 600 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect and without judgment. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable health information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives.

For more than 45 years, Planned Parenthood Global has supported access to sexual and reproductive health care and advocated for reproductive rights around the world. In partnership with more than 100 organizations across 9 focus countries in Africa and Latin America, we advance the health and rights of young people, women and families, with an emphasis on the most vulnerable and underserved. Last year, our partners provided over 1.8 million people with sexual and reproductive health information and services. Our unique sustainability model sets us apart, as we empower partners to stand on their own. We help grassroots organizations develop solid reproductive health programs, identify other sources of funding, build their communications and advocacy skills, and develop strategic plans. Planned Parenthood Global is the international arm of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.