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Lift Restrictions On Abortion Under Helms Amendment As Applied To Rape Victims

Though President Barack Obama signed an executive order on his third day in office to “lif[t] the odious ‘global gag rule’ that denied federal money for family planning work abroad to any group that performed abortions or counseled about the procedure, even with its own money,” he left standing a policy that is “an overly restrictive interpretation of the [1973] Helms amendment.” The policy “imposes similar speech restrictions and bans using foreign aid money for abortions — even to save a woman’s life or in cases of rape in war zones like Congo, Sudan and Burma,” a New York Times editorial states.

Now “[a] coalition of human rights groups and legal and medical experts led by the Global Justice Center, along with Norway, has issued a call to lift the policy as applied to rape victims” because, in part, they say “the current interpretation of the Helms amendment violates Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which entitles all victims of armed conflict — including those brutalized by rape — to complete and non-discriminatory medical treatment. That includes access to abortions and necessary information about the procedure,” the editorial says. “Mr. Obama may fear that changing the policy would anger antiabortion extremists in Congress. But that is no excuse for breaking his pledge to abide by the Geneva Conventions,” the editorial concludes (9/7).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.