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WASHINGTON, DC – Building on previous calls for action on the issue, Planned Parenthood today launched a campaign  to mobilize its eight million supporters to urge President Obama to correctly interpret implement the Helms Amendment, in parallel with renewed calls this week from leading reproductive health groups including the Center for Reproductive Rights, Ipas and others.

The Helms Amendment prohibits the use of U.S. foreign assistance funds “to pay for the performance of abortions as a method of family planning.” For more than 40 years, the law has been misinterpreted as a complete ban on all abortion-related services. President Obama can take immediate action to allow foreign assistance to cover abortions for women who have been raped, who are victims of incest, or who face a life-endangering pregnancy in countries where those services are legally available.

Following Congress' recent action to expand abortion services for Peace Corps Volunteers in limited circumstances, a correct interpretation of Helms would bring U.S. foreign assistance in line with other federal programs.

“President Obama has been a strong champion for women’s health,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “Now, it’s time to stand up again to make sure that U.S.-funded programs are doing justice to women.”

“Women already face enormous obstacles to care. In correctly implementing the Helms Amendment, the Obama administration has an unprecedented opportunity to help women in desperate need around the world.”

Women around the world face high rates of gender-based violence, limited access to trained health care providers, and financial and geographic barriers to access comprehensive reproductive health care, including safe and legal abortion. Every year, an estimated 290,000 women die from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth, with unsafe abortion a leading cause among those.

The full text of the e-mail sent to Planned Parenthood supporters this morning is below:


Dear supporter,

No woman should be forced to carry a pregnancy caused by a sexual assault or that threatens her life.

And no woman should be turned away from the care she needs, especially when she faces a pregnancy which threatens her life.

But that's exactly what happens, all over the world. It's heartbreaking, but U.S. global health programs won't fund abortion even in cases of rape, incest, and life-threatening pregnancy. President Obama can stop this dangerous injustice today — ask him to act now.

Women around the world are being denied the care they need because of the Helms Amendment. This harmful law, in place since 1973, prohibits the use of U.S. foreign assistance funds for the performance of abortion as a method of family planning — but it doesn't apply in cases of rape, incest, or life-threatening pregnancy. President Obama can solve this crisis with the stroke of his pen.

The president has been a strong champion of women's health — and we need him to stand with women around the world again. Send President Obama a message right now to urge him to correct this harmful policy.

Right now, global health funding programs turn women away even in these extremely difficult and dangerous cases. President Obama can't overturn the full Helms Amendment on his own, but he can stop this dangerous misinterpretation of it and protect women whose lives are in danger, or who are pregnant as a result of rape or incest. He can allow overseas health programs to give these women the care they need. Ask President Obama to act now.

Thank you for standing up for women's health — here at home and around the world.


Cecile Richards


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 700 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.


Planned Parenthood Federation of America


Planned Parenthood Federation of America media office: 212-261-4433


January 15, 2015