March 18, 2013 — A flawed interpretation of the 1973 Helms amendment, designed to prevent "the use of United States foreign aid money to finance abortion overseas," severely hampers efforts to reduce the number of women who die each year as a result of unsafe abortions, a New York Times editorial states.
The editorial points out that the amendment -- which states that foreign aid may not be used to "pay for the performance of abortion as a method of family planning or to motivate or coerce any person to practice abortions" -- clearly "excludes cases of life endangerment, incest and rape."
"Providing abortions to women and girls subjected to rape as a weapon of armed conflict obviously has nothing to do with family planning," the editorial states. However, that "has not stopped successive Republican and Democratic administrations from treating the amendment as an absolute abortion ban " and using it to prevent "foreign aid recipients from offering abortion information," the editorial adds.
"Mr. Obama has room under the law to abide by the amendment in a way that is true to its wording, more humane and consistent with his own ideals," the editorial concludes, adding, "He should use it" (New York Times, 3/17).
Debra Ness, publisher & president, National Partnership
Andrea Friedman, associate editor & director of reproductive health programs, National Partnership
Marya Torrez, associate editor & senior reproductive health policy counsel, National Partnership
Melissa Safford, associate editor & policy advocate for reproductive health, National Partnership
Perry Sacks, assistant editor & health program associate, National Partnership
Cindy Romero, assistant editor & communications assistant, National Partnership
Justyn Ware, editor
Amanda Wolfe, editor-in-chief
Heather Drost, Hanna Jaquith, Marcelle Maginnis, Ashley Marchand and Michelle Stuckey, staff writers
Tucker Ball, director of new media, National Partnership