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It’s Time to Erase the Legacy of Jesse Helms in Women’s Health Care | Commentary

By Brian Dixon In recent comments  on “Meet the Press,” Ben Carson, who is one of the front-runners for the GOP presidential nomination, compared abortion to slavery and said he supported a ban on abortion in all circumstances, including rape, incest or the life of the woman. Sen. Jesse Helms would be proud.  

For more than 40 years, the North Carolina senator’s policy, known as the Helms Amendment, has withheld vital funds for health care at the expense of women’s lives. Recently, 28 Democratic senators took an important step to fix this dangerous policy by calling for funding for abortion care for women who have been raped, who are victims of incest, or whose lives would be threatened by carrying a pregnancy to term. (“Democrats Urge Obama to Address Needs of Rape Survivors in War Zones ” Roll Call, Oct. 26.)  

Does Carson believe a young girl raped by a terrorist should be forced to give birth to her attacker’s child? To be clear, that’s not a hypothetical. That is the reality faced by more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls who became pregnant after being kidnapped and repeatedly raped by Boko Haram.  

That fate is what our current U.S. foreign aid policy offers all women and girls living in areas ravaged by war: Give birth to your rapist’s child or seek an unsafe backdoor abortion that kills 47,000 women worldwide a year.  

We don’t have to continue the dangerous legacy of Helms. Carson, like all presidential candidates, may have the opportunity to reverse this deadly path by fixing the Helms Amendment with a stroke of a pen on his first day in office. Cynical abortion politics did not belong in healthcare clinics around the world then and they don’t now.  

Brian Dixon is senior vice president for media and government relations for Population Connection Action Fund.

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