July 30, 2020

Illinois Representative Jan Schakowsky Leads Push to Repeal Pro-Life Helms Amendment

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)
In an act of modern-day colonialism, Illinois Representative Jan Schakowsky announced a new bill titled the “Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act of 2020,” to repeal the pro-life Helms Amendment. The Helms Amendment prevents federal tax dollars from funding organizations that promote abortion in other countries.

Specifically, the Helms Amendment reads, “no foreign assistance funds may 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.”

The following statement is from a press release issued by Rep. Schakowsky:

“The Helms Amendment is a policy deeply rooted in racism. It imposes our arbitrary and medically unnecessary abortion restrictions on international communities, allowing the United States to control the health care and bodily autonomy of billions [of] Black and brown people around the world.

Just like the Hyde Amendment [which prevents federal funds from being used for abortion within the US], the Helms Amendment puts reproductive and economic freedom out of reach for women of color. But enough is enough, and both amendments must fall if we want to realize true health equity and reproductive justice.”

There are two major problems with this statement.

First, the United States is not controlling the "health care and bodily autonomy" of foreign women by denying foreign aid to organizations that promote abortion abroad. These organizations are not entitled to US tax dollars.

Second, the Helms Amendment is not racist. Imposing the Western (and false) idea that abortion is healthcare to black and brown communities worldwide IS racist. The reason that many African nations don't have widespread access to abortion is that the people who live there don't want it. It is white, wealthy, progressive westerners that send money to political organizations trying to change the abortion laws of traditionally conservative nations. Believing that western nations know what's best for nations of black and brown people is truly racist because it implies that black and brown nations are unintelligent and can't be trusted to make decisions for themselves.