Women raped by Isis are being denied aid because of America's antiquated laws on abortion

'Women and girls who have survived atrocities deserve access to comprehensive post-rape care'

Jessica Ware
Tuesday 09 June 2015 08:25

Women raped and impregnated by terrorist captors are being denied overseas help to get abortions because of federal red tape in the US government.

Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders in the US have called on President Barack Obama to change the Helms amendment, a law that prevents foreign aid money to fund abortion overseas unless a woman’s life is in danger.

The 42-year-old federal law forbids US aid money being used for abortion “as a method of family planning or to motivate or coerce any person to practice abortion.”

According to the Washington Post, representatives from the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) and the NGO, Centre for Health and Gender Equity, argued at a summit in Washington on Thursday that when Yazidi, Iraqi, Nigerian and Syrian women are systematically raped, the abortions that they might seek afterwards are not for “family planning purposes.”

This means that women who become pregnant as a result of rape have to bear the children of their attackers. The campaigning religious leaders believe that abortion is a vital part of post-rape care.

In conflict-torn countries, rape and sexual violence against women and girls is commonplace. A Human Rights Watch report revealed in April that Isis fighters had been raping girls as young as 12 years old.

“Rape is a tool of war, and in the midst of that hell, women and girls who have survived atrocities deserve access to comprehensive post-rape care, including access to compassionate abortion. That’s what loving your neighbour looks like in this case,” the Guardian reported RCRC president Harry Knox as saying at the conference.

Speaking ahead of the event, President of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, Denise Eger, referred to 200 kidnapped Nigerian girls. “People are horrified by the news about the girls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram,” she said.

“But we have the power of our nation to actually do something to save those girls and to provide the medical care they need, the health care they need, the reproductive care they need,” said Eger.

Religious leaders already demanded last year that the Helms amendment – which they regarded as a being too strictly interpreted – be repealed. The World Health Organisation estimates that 21.6 million women undergo unsafe abortions each year. Around 47,000 women die from complications of unsafe abortion.

The White House is yet to respond to the fresh calls. Though US Secretary of State John Kerry attended a summit last year to discuss ending sexual violence in conflict, where, the Guardian reported, he said that survivors needed support to recover and rebuild their lives.

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