WASHINGTON, D.C., December 6, ( – A leading advocate for rape victims and their children has criticized a push by three major international human rights organizations to convince President Barack Obama to use an Executive Order to fund some abortions overseas for the first time since a 1973 law prevented such funding.

The Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE), Human Rights Watch, and the Global Fund for Women, are pushing for the funding in cases of women who are raped in war-torn countries. They claim the funding would help alleviate the harm faced by pregnant woman after they are raped. 

However, current law says no federal dollars may be used to pay for overseas abortion, per the Helms Amendment of 1973. Named after former Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC), it states that “No foreign assistance funds may be used to pay for the performance of abortion as a method of family planning or to motivate or coerce any person to practice abortions.”


The three organizations contend that post-rape abortions are not related to “family planning,” and that therefore the Helms Amendment likely doesn't apply. CHANGE's website contends “USAID has interpreted this amendment to prohibit U.S. funding of abortions that would preserve the physical or mental health of a woman, yet allow it for victims of rape or incest, or to save a woman’s life.” 

But Rebecca Kiessling of Save the 1, who was herself conceived in rape, and who has spoken worldwide in support of babies conceived in rape, has responded to the campaign, saying that abortion is not a solution to rape, even in war-torn countries where women are marginalized. 

Kiessling, who said she has received e-mails from women all over the glob who have been raped, told that she believes “rape victim mothers need real help, not abortion.” 

She pointed to the case of Nobel Peace Prize nominee Doctor Denis Mukwege Mukengere as a model for how to care for rape victims. Mukengere, the founder and medical director of Panzi Hospital, provides “child care, medical care for mothers, emotional and financial support, etc. at his hospital that exclusively serves rape victims and their resulting children in Congo,” she said. 

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Human Life International Director of International Coordination Joseph Meaney also opposed the push. “Foreign aid should focus on providing real solutions to real problems,” he told “If a crisis situation exists where rapes are taking place, U.S. taxpayers should expect that their money is being spent to provide compassionate care and support, and that everything possible is done to protect women from further violence. 

“Women who have suffered a sexual assault should be spared a second painful and invasive experience that kills their children courtesy of the American taxpayer.” 

Whether President Obama will acquiesce to the pressure of these organizations remains to be seen; they are still looking for a meeting with the White House. Obama has funded some overseas abortions in his presidency, first by overriding the Mexico City Policy originally enacted by President Ronald Reagan in 1984. The Mexico City policy prevented federal dollars from going to organizations that commit abortions overseas, and was created by Executive Order. 

In 2010, an investigation was launched by three House Republicans as to whether the administration had violated the Siljander Amendment, which prevents federal officials from lobbying on behalf of abortion in other countries, by sending Vice President Joe Biden to push for passage of Kenya's Constitution, which was eventually approved. The Constitution included legal abortion in the case of “health” of the mother. That investigation was never concluded. 

Obama has issued 164 Executive Orders thus far in his presidency, slightly more than the rate at which President George W. Bush enacted them, and fewer than the rate at which Bill Clinton signed Executive Orders. Both Bush and Obama have relied heavily on regulation to enforce their policy preferences, with Bush putting 52 regulations on the private sector in his first term, and Obama enacting 131 in the same time period.