Abortion is health care.

Repeal the Helms Amendment.

48th Anniversary of Helms Letter 2021

  December 17, 2021


President Joseph R. Biden
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20004

Re: Call for Executive Action to Support Helms Amendment Repeal

Dear President Biden,

We, the undersigned organizations, call on you to protect reproductive freedom and bodily autonomy for people across the globe by demonstrating your support for the repeal of the Helms Amendment. Failure to do so is in direct conflict with the priorities stated by this administration to “promote access to sexual and reproductive health and rights both at home and abroad.” We urge you to proactively protect essential human rights, including abortion, for people in other countries as well as our own. We appreciate the actions you have taken in support of sexual and reproductive health and rights, including repealing the Global Gag Rule and calling for increased UNFPA funding. However, simply reversing harm inflicted by the previous administration is not enough to make meaningful progress on health and human rights.

We write to you on this day specifically because it is the 48th anniversary of the passage of the Helms Amendment, which prohibits U.S. foreign aid from being used for “the performance of abortion as a method of family planning.” This provision is over-implemented as a total ban on abortion under any circumstance, denying millions of mostly Black and brown people in low-to-middle income countries the health care they want and need. Authored by the late Sen. Jesse Helms, this policy has roots in racism and neocolonialism, allowing the U.S. to police other countries through the power of foreign assistance and control their policies even in instances where countries have expanded abortion access. The result is drastic global health inequities, stifled bodily autonomy, and preventable death.

Last year, many of us called on your administration to support the Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act, which repeals the Helms Amendment. The Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act now has over 170 cosponsors and is endorsed by a diverse coalition of over 175 organizations. The Helms Amendment was also successfully removed from the House-passed Fiscal Year 2022 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs appropriations bill. Despite growing momentum for repeal of the Helms Amendment, it remained in the FY22 President’s Budget and was not addressed in the recently released National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality, both missed opportunities to ensure bodily autonomy for people globally, no matter who they are or where they live.

Today, one year later, our asks of your administration are more urgent than ever. Increases in state legislation restricting reproductive freedom, coupled with the current Supreme Court case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which threatens Roe v. Wade and abortion access domestically, as well as a growing global anti-rights movement, make the need to protect sexual and reproductive rights critical. And while your administration works to protect the constitutional right to abortion domestically, it must also rigorously defend and uphold the right to abortion care for people outside the U.S. Therefore we urge you to signal your support for proactive repeal of the Helms Amendment from the Foreign Assistance Act by supporting the Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act and striking the Helms Amendment from the upcoming FY23 President’s Budget.

While ending abortion restrictions in U.S. foreign assistance is one of the many steps necessary to protect the right to health care, including meaningful access to sexual and reproductive health care globally, it is critical to end the damage of racist and neocolonialist policies like the Helms amendment that have plagued communities for decades. U.S. politicians have controlled the lives and bodies of people living thousands of miles away for 48 years too long.

Abortion Access Front

Abortion Liberation Fund of PA

Advocates for Youth

Advocating Opportunity

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

American Humanist Association

American Jewish World Service

American Medical Student Association

Amnesty International USA

Beyond the Bans Colorado

Black Women’s Health Imperative

Catholics for Choice

California Latinas for Reproductive Justice 

Center for American Progress

Center for Biological Diversity

Center for Reproductive Rights

Clearinghouse on Women’s Issues

Coalition of Labor Union Women


Collective Power for Reproductive Justice

Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR)

Council for Global Equality

Creative Community League

Desiree Alliance

End Rape On Campus

Equal Asia Foundation (Stichting EqualA Foundation)

Every Mother Counts

Feminist Majority Foundation

Fòs Feminista

Freedom Network USA

Friends of the Earth

Funders Concerned About AIDS

Global Justice Center

Global Justice Institute, Metropolitan Community Churches

Global Network of Black People working in HIV

Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation

Guttmacher Institute

Health GAP

Heartland Alliance International

Hispanic Federation

Human Rights Campaign

Human Rights Watch

Ibis Reproductive Health


In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda

International Action Network for Gender Equity & Law (IANGEL)

International Center for Advocates Against Discrimination (ICAAD)

International Center for Research on Women (ICRW)

International Women’s Convocation


Jacobs Institute of Women’s Health

John Snow, Inc. (JSI)


Last Mile4D

Legal Voice

Lift Louisiana


Management Sciences for Health

Medical Students for Choice

MenEngage Alliance

Metrics for Management

MSI United States

NARAL Pro-Choice America

National Abortion Federation

National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF)

National Association of Social Workers

National Birth Equity Collaborative

National Center for Lesbian Rights

National Center for Transgender Equality

National Council of Jewish Women

National Health Law Program

National Institute for Reproductive Health

National Network of Abortion Funds

National Organization for Women

North American Society of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology

Nurses for Sexual & Reproductive Health (NSRH)

OutRight Action International


Pathfinder International

Physicians for Reproductive Health

Planned Parenthood Federation of America

Population Connection Action Fund

Population Council

Population Institute

Population Services International (PSI)

Positive Women’s Network-USA


Reconstructing Judaism

Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association

Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice


Reproductive Health Access Project

Reproductive Health Network Kenya


SIECUS: Sex Ed for Social Change

SisterLove, Inc


SisterSong: National Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective


Society for Humanistic Judaism

Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine

Tewa Women United

The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries

The Global Justice Institute

The Womxn Project (TWP)

Together for Girls

Treatment Action Group


Union for Reform Judaism

United State of Women

URGE: Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity

We Testify

White Ribbon Alliance

Women Enabled International

Women Have Options/ Ohio

Women of Reform Judaism

Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO)

Women’s Refugee Commission

Woodhull Freedom Foundation

Kamala D. Harris , Vice President
Anthony J. Blinken, Secretary of State
Samantha Power, Administrator, US Agency for International Development
Jennifer Klein, Co-Chair and Executive Director of the Gender Policy Council
Shilpa Phadke, Deputy Director of the Gender Policy Council
Rachel Vogelstein, Senior Advisor, Gender Policy Council
Kalisha Figures, Special Assistant to the President for Gender Policy