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March 23, 2023

Pressley, Schakowsky, Booker, Lee, DeGette, Torres, Strickland Reintroduce the Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act

Bill Repeals Harmful and Discriminatory Helms Amendment and Expands Abortion Access Globally

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WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Chair of the Pro-Choice Caucus’ Abortion Rights and Access Task Force, along with Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Chair of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus Providers and Clinics Task Force, Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Representatives Barbara Lee (CA-12), Diana DeGette (CO-01), Norma Torres (CA-35), and Marilyn Strickland (WA-10) reintroduced their legislation, the Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act.   

The Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act would repeal the 1973 Helms Amendment to the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act. This would ensure that U.S. foreign assistance may be used to provide the full scope of comprehensive health care, including access to safe and legal 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.

“For too long, anti-choice policies nationally and internationally have dictated who has access to critical health care, economic opportunity, and bodily autonomy,” said Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley. “Let’s be clear: abortion care is health care, and a fundamental right for everyone across the globe. The Helms Amendment is yet another barrier preventing millions – particularly in the global south – from accessing safe and legal abortion care, and we must reverse course. As we continue our work to protect and expand abortion access domestically, I am proud to once again join Congresswoman Schakowsky and my colleagues in this fight to repeal Helms and affirm abortion rights and reproductive justice for everyone, everywhere.”

“For nearly 50 years, the racist, harmful Helms Amendment has barred U.S. foreign assistance from being used to offer abortion care, even in countries where abortions are legal. The United States should not stand in the way of health care and bodily autonomy in other countries. Developing countries bear the burden of 97% of all unsafe abortions. We must protect women’s health around the globe. By singling out abortion as a restricted health service, the Helms Amendment reinforces efforts to criminalize abortion and heightens abortion-related stigma,” said Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky. “I am proud to reintroduce the bicameral Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act with Senator Booker and Representatives Lee, DeGette, and Torres. Comprehensive reproductive health care, including safe, legal, and accessible abortion, is a human right.”

“For decades, many countries around the world relied on Roe v. Wade to expand access to abortion care in their own countries,” said Senator Cory Booker. “In the wake of the disastrous decision in Dobbs v. Jackson, people across the globe have found their access to essential health services restricted. To ensure that all people have access to critical reproductive services, we must repeal the Helms Amendment and ensure that US foreign aid can be used for safe, legal abortion care overseas.”

“As Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, I have seen again and again the consequences of a U.S. foreign policy that singles out and restricts abortion care,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee. “The disastrous Helms Amendment is more than a line item in our appropriations bills. It is more than a logistical challenge for recipients of U.S. foreign aid. It is a matter of life or death. I urge my colleagues to support this vital bill, finally repeal Helms, and ensure every community our foreign assistance dollars reach gets the care they need.”

“Abortion care is health care, and every woman around the world deserves the right to decide what’s best for her, her body, her health and her family,” said Congresswoman Diana DeGette. “For too long, the Helms Amendment has prevented women from accessing the care they need. We need to end this draconian policy once and for all to ensure every woman – both here in America and around the globe – can access the full range of health care they need, including abortion care.”

“Every woman should have the ability to make her own personal medical decisions and access reproductive health care. The Helms Amendment hurts millions of people across the globe because it places limits on U.S. foreign assistance to fund abortion care. The Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act removes this harmful provision from federal policy and ensures strong reproductive rights are a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy, no matter who sits in the White House,” said Congresswoman Norma Torres. “This bill is the best path forward to deliver on the promise of a future where all women can safely access abortion care. As a Member of Congress, I will always fight for reproductive freedom, both at home and abroad.”

“As MAGA extremists unleash their assault on women’s rights, it is imperative to ensure reproductive health care for all,” said Congresswoman Marilyn Strickland. “The Helms Amendment makes it impossible for millions of women across the globe to seek reproductive care – including routine preventative screenings – barring economic mobility and worsening the maternal health crisis. I am introducing the Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act with Representative Schakowsky and over 140 of my colleagues today to repeal Helms, ensure equality, and continue the fight for women’s rights worldwide.”

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. There are exceptions to the Helms Amendment, allowing for U.S. foreign assistance to provide abortion care in cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment, but in practice, Helms has been wrongly applied as a total ban on U.S. foreign aid being used to provide abortion care under any circumstance — even providing information or counseling on abortion, which is legal, is not occurring in many places around the world. 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.

In her time serving in Congress, Congresswoman Pressley has fought persistently to protect fundamental reproductive and sexual health care rights. 

  • Rep. Pressley is a lead co-sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA), bicameral federal legislation to guarantee equal access to abortion care, everywhere. 
  • Rep. Pressley is also a lead co-sponsor of the EACH Act, bold legislation to repeal the Hyde Amendment and help guarantee abortion coverage—regardless of how a patient gets their health insurance.
  • Shortly before the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, Rep. Pressley led a group of her Black women colleagues in writing to President Biden urging him to declare a public health emergency amid the unprecedented threats to abortion rights nationwide. 
  • Rep. Pressley condemned the Supreme Court’s leaked draft opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade., and implored the Senate to protect abortion rights and slammed the white supremacist roots of anti-abortion efforts.
  • In September 2021, Rep. Pressley issued a statement condemning the Supreme Court’s inaction on SB-8, Texas’ restrictive abortion law. Later that month, she participated in a House Oversight Committee hearing to examine the threat posed by abortion bans and underscored the urgency of the Senate passing the Women’s Health Protection Act. 
  • In April 2021, Rep. Pressley, along with Congresswomen Barbara Lee (CA-13), Diana DeGette (CO-01) and Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), led a group of 131 Democratic members in reintroducing the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance Act or the EACH Act, which would repeal the Hyde Amendment and ensure that all people, regardless of income, insurance or zip code, can make personal reproductive health care decisions without interference from politicians. She re-Introduced the legislation In January 2023.
  • Rep. Pressley has led calls in Congress for the FDA to remove medically unnecessary restrictions on the medication abortion drug mifepristone, and applauded the FDA’s action in January 2023 to allow retail pharmacies to dispense abortion medication pills.
  • In March 2023, Rep. Pressley delivered a speech in which she discussed the pending court case in Texas, which aims to restrict access to medication abortion across the entire nation. In her remarks, Rep. Pressley affirmed medication abortion as routine medical care, and accessibility to the abortion pill mifepristone as essential.
  • As Chair of the Pro-Choice Caucus’s Abortion Rights and Access Task Force, Congresswoman Pressley has led the fight to repeal the Hyde Amendments from annual Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies appropriations bills and in July 2020 published a Medium post on the importance of doing so. She applauded the removal of the Hyde Amendment in President Biden’s FY2022 budget.
  • In March 2023, Rep. Pressley and Senator Hirono led their colleagues in reintroducing a bicameral congressional resolution honoring abortion providers and clinic staff. 
  • In May 2020, she led more than 155 Members of Congress in calling on House Democratic leadership to ensure that any future COVID-19 relief packages rejected Republican efforts to use the public health crisis to diminish abortion access.
  • In August 2021 Rep. Pressley, Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, and Pro-Choice Caucus Co-Chairs Reps. Diana DeGette and Barbara Lee led more than 70 of their House Democratic colleagues in introducing a resolution in support of equitable, science-based policies governing access to medication abortion care. 
  • In January 2023, Rep. Pressley introduced a resolution to condemn all forms of political violence in the U.S., regardless of its target or intent. That same day, she delivered a powerful speech on the House floor slamming Republicans’ harmful, misleading anti-abortion resolution.
  • In September 2022, Rep. Pressley hosted U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra at the Codman Square Health Center in Dorchester for a convening on their work to address the Black maternal health crisis and the criminalization of abortion care in states across the nation following the harmful U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health
  • In May 2019, she led more than 100 colleagues in introducing H.Con.Res.40, a resolution reaffirming the House of Representative’s support for Roe v. Wade.
  • In June 2019, Rep. Pressley introduced H.R. 3296, the Affordability is Access Act, to make oral contraception available without a prescription. 
  • In September 2016, as a member of the Boston City Council, Pressley championed a resolution calling on Congress and President Obama to repeal the Hyde Amendment and reinstate insurance coverage for abortion services.