By Valerie Huber
This post originally appeared on The Hill.
Progressive Democratic senators recently introduced a bill that would repeal the Helms Amendment and restore the practice of exporting abortion to nations abroad, whether or not they want it. Women across the world are suffering and dying from an absence of genuine health care as pro-abortion American politicians pursue global ideological hegemony.
Our political leaders are using American soft power to coerce other countries to support a fabricated “international right” to abortion. That’s why some nations most in need of aid for women’s and girls’ health now face intense pressure to conform. All of these nations have at least one thing in common: They signed the Geneva Consensus Declaration (GCD), a document that makes it clear there is no “international right” to abortion.
At its core, the GCD is about expanding women’s access to health and thriving. It is about national sovereignty and freedom from external ideological coercion by other countries or international organizations. It quotes a formative international document reminding everyone that “any measures or changes related to abortion within the health system can only be determined at the national or local level according to the national legislative process.”
In other words, laws about abortion are for each sovereign nation to decide. And this is at the heart of the Helms Amendment — America has no right to pressure or bully other nations into altering their laws or practices via manipulation of foreign aid.
What’s more, the Helms Amendment was a bipartisan part of foreign aid decision-making for decades. It was an important and necessary compromise at the time, and it still has overwhelming popular support. Nearly three-quarters of Americans oppose global funding of abortions, including a majority of those who identify as “pro-choice.”
Yet, the Biden administration, progressive members of Congress and activist organizations link arms with other international leaders of similar intent, placing a priority on exporting an abortion agenda. But when ideology trumps unfettered humanitarian assistance, women suffer for lack of real health care. In a number of the 37 GCD signatory nations, women wait desperately for improved health care. I’ve seen health conditions that easily could be prevented or solved with improved medical infrastructure.
I know because I’ve seen women in need firsthand during my time leading the Institute for Women’s Health. If we want to take women’s health seriously, we must set aside polarizing political agendas and use that energy instead to save the lives of women and girls.
We could, for example, fund the medical infrastructure needed to make pregnancy and delivery safer. We could empower vulnerable nations to provide their mothers with meaningful support before and after childbirth. We could support programs that foster healthy families, the building block of any flourishing civilization.
In short, we should address the real needs of women abroad, instead of forcing sovereign nations into ideological subjugation under the guise of “health care.” This is exactly the kind of aid that dozens of nations eagerly await: real health care, without political strings attached.
After all, the GCD nations explicitly reaffirm the importance of “preserving human dignity and all the rights and freedoms set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” They declare, jointly, that the “human rights of women are an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of all human rights and fundamental freedoms” and that the family is foundational to every healthy society.
They are not hostile to women or to women’s rights. Quite the opposite! Their act of signing the GCD affirms their commitment to improve the lot of women inside their borders — a hopeful and encouraging sign that any person (or nation) should applaud.
They do not presume, however, to make moral or legal decisions for other nations. Each one has committed to meet the health needs of the women in their care. This is an admirable goal that should be appreciated, rather than denigrated or weaponized.
We can and ought to continue supporting the sovereignty of these nations through measures like the Helms Amendment. They deserve our support, not interference from activist politicians. Members of Congress, if you are listening: Commit to advancing the health of women and girls globally. Respect international sovereignty. Do not repeal the Helms Amendment.
Valerie Huber is the founder and president of the Institute for Women’s Health. She previously served as the U.S. special representative for Global Women’s Health.