The Democratic Party vowed for the first time in its proposed new platform to repeal the Helms Amendment, a longstanding U.S. foreign aid restriction that makes it more difficult for women around the world -- especially women raped in conflict -- to access safe and legal abortion.
The proposed platform "strongly supports the repeal of harmful restrictions that obstruct women’s access to healthcare around the world, including the Global Gag Rule and the Helms Amendment, which bars US assistance to other countries that provide safe, legal, abortion," according to draft highlights released Saturday by the Democratic Platform Drafting Committee.
The Helms Amendment, written by former Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) in 1973, blocks U.S. foreign aid money from paying for "abortion as a method of family planning." Huffington Post Highline detailed in a December story how the law restricts abortion access for women raped in conflict as well as women in developing countries that rely on U.S. aid. Despite years of aggressive lobbying by women's and human rights groups and a recent condemnation by the United Nations, the Obama administration has declined to take any action on Helms.
Both major Democratic presidential candidates, however, promised in statements to The Huffington Post that they would change Helms if elected. And the Democratic Party took a huge stand against the law on Saturday by mentioning it specifically in its platform proposal.
“We are pleased and encouraged that the Democratic Party recognizes the harm this law does and excited that for the first time pledged to repeal the Helms Amendment and end the ban on U.S. aid for abortion overseas," said Brian Dixon, a spokesperson for Population Connection Action Fund, a reproductive rights advocacy group. "Now, every Democrat will run on a platform that will bring the U.S. one step closer to closing the gap to safe abortion care for women and girls."
The platform draft still needs to be approved by the Democrats' full drafting committee and ratified at the party's convention.