Critically ill with lupus and kidney problems, Beatriz was also pregnant with a non-viable fetus. She was unlikely to survive carrying the pregnancy to term.
But Beatriz lives in El Salvador, which bans all abortions -- regardless of the circumstances. She survived only because, after weeks of international pressure, her doctors were given special permission to induce labor and perform a C-section. El Salvador's policies are indefensible. Even worse, though, is the fact that women throughout the developing world face similar circumstances every day, and are put at the same risk because of a flawed interpretation of a long-standing United States law.
The Helms Amendment, adopted in 1973, bars the use of U.S. foreign assistance to provide "abortion as a method of family planning." In practice, this law has been used to block abortions under any circumstance. The end result is that women in the most desperate of circumstances are denied safe abortions. Some 47,000 women die each year in developing countries from complications from unsafe abortions.
President Obama can change this with the stroke of a pen and make clear that U.S. funded health clinics around the world can provide safe abortions to women who've been raped, who are victims of incest, or whose lives would be threatened by carrying a pregnancy to term.
Tell President Obama to act now to protect women's lives.
Since 1973, the Helms Amendment has provided strict limitations on the circumstances in which it is permissible to use U.S. funds for abortion care overseas. Unfortunately, for nearly all of that time that limitation has instead been treated as if it were an outright ban.
The law bars the use of foreign aid funding for "abortion as a method of family planning." Yet, policies enacted by the U.S. government ban the use of foreign assistance funds to provide safe abortion under any circumstance.
The end result is that women in the most desperate of circumstance -- those who have been raped, those whose lives are endangered by their pregnancies -- cannot be sure of finding help from clinics that receive U.S. funding.
But it doesn't have to be this way. You have the authority to bring Helms in line with other U.S. policies by making clear that U.S. foreign aid can be used to provide safe abortions to women who have been raped, are the victims of incest or whose lives are threatened by carrying a pregnancy to term. It is long past time for this policy change.
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Please act swiftly to fix this problem. The law allows it. And simple decency demands it.
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