House Democrats are fighting for taxpayer-funded abortions through international aid in a bid to overturn a decades-long bipartisan agreement.
A spending bill advanced by the State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs subcommittee Monday would repeal the Helms Amendment, which bans direct funding of abortions through foreign aid. The bill would also repeal the Mexico City policy, known by critics as the global gag rule, which prevents the United States from funding international organizations that are involved with abortion services. The policy has been implemented and repealed by presidents of opposing parties since its inception under President Ronald Reagan in 1985.
The United Nations Population Fund, which the Trump administration stopped funding in 2017 due to the group’s relationship with the Chinese Communist Party’s family planning program, would receive a 50 percent increase in funding under the bill.
Supporters of the Helms Amendment and the Mexico City policy expressed concern with the U.S. government using taxpayer dollars to fund abortions globally.
"Repealing the Helms Amendment and funding United Nations Population Fund would endanger unborn lives worldwide and represent cultural imperialism of the worst kind, attempting to impose leftist values on countries whose people overwhelmingly reject them," Terry Schilling, president of the American Principles Project, told the Washington Free Beacon. "This extremism is also widely opposed by Americans, and Democrats will be forced to answer for it next time voters head to the polls."
Pro-choice groups have long opposed the Helms Amendment and Mexico City policy, which they claim prevent funds from aiding vulnerable women across the globe in need of safe abortions.
"Study after study has demonstrated that the neocolonialist global gag rule devastates health care access for people around the world, especially those who already face systemic barriers to care," said Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood. "And for nearly 50 years, the Helms Amendment has restricted people’s ability to make their own personal medical decisions, denying them access to comprehensive reproductive health care."
The Helms Amendment was passed in 1973, followed by the Hyde Amendment, which prevents U.S. tax dollars from funding abortions domestically, in 1976. President Joe Biden supported both measures throughout his Senate career but came out against the Hyde Amendment during the 2020 Democratic primary. Congressional Democrats may push the administration even further on the issue. The White House's May budget proposal included the repeal of the Hyde Amendment but would leave the Helms Amendment in place.
Schilling said the president's flip-flop on the issue demonstrates the extremism of Democrats.
"For years now, Democrats have made clear that promoting abortion at every opportunity is among their highest priorities," Schilling said. "So it should come as no surprise that they are now pushing to use American tax dollars to export this gruesome industry overseas."
Rep. Barbara Lee (D., Calif.), chair of the State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs subcommittee, did not respond to a request for comment but celebrated the bill on Twitter.
Rep. Hal Rogers (R., Ky.), the ranking member of the subcommittee, criticized the bill during Monday’s hearing, noting the bipartisan support in recent decades for the abortion-funding amendments.
"Of greatest concern is the removal of the most important condition in any State-Foreign Operations bill—that no funds can be used to pay for abortion," Rogers said in his opening remarks. "This change is unprecedented, but it doesn’t stop there."
Prudence Robertson, communications associate at the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, told the Free Beacon the proposed bill makes clear that Democratic lawmakers want all budget restrictions on funding abortion to be removed.
"The Appropriations spending bills are home to not just the Hyde Amendment, but also to dozens of Hyde-like provisions known as pro-life riders," Robertson said. "Removal of these amendments are part of a concerted effort by extreme pro-abortion Democrats to gut all existing pro-life protections that have been included in the federal budget for decades."
While repealing the Helms Amendment will please abortion providers, it is likely to alienate voters. A Marist poll conducted in January found that 77 percent of respondents oppose global funding of abortion.