Clinton on rape, abortion in war zones

Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton speaks at the premier of the documentary film "Makers: Once and For All" at the School of Visual Arts on November 19, 2015 in New York City.

Story highlights

  • Hillary Clinton discusses the use of rape to terrorize women
  • The Democratic front-runner suggest ways around the Helms Act

Clinton, Iowa (CNN)Hillary Clinton said Sunday she believes that because rape is increasingly being used as a weapon of war, the United States should help the victims by finding a way to get around a law that bars U.S. foreign assistance funds for abortion.

Clinton was asked at a Clinton, Iowa, town hall about the 1973 Helms Amendment, which states, "No foreign assistance funds may be used to pay for the performance of abortion as a method of family planning." The law prohibits the United States from offering certain types of family planning to women who have been raped in conflict zones.
"I do think we have to take a look at this for conflict zones," Clinton said in response to a question from a woman in the audience. "And if the United States government, because of very strong feelings against it, maintains our prohibition, then we are going to have to work through non-profit groups and work with other counties to...provide the support and medical care that a lot of these women need."
    The woman, who identified herself as a police officer, asked Clinton that given the fact ISIS is using "rape as a weapon of war... what is your position on Helms as it relates to public funding for abortion?"
    Clinton said that "systematic use of rape as a tool of war and subjection is one that has been around from the beginning of history," but that it has become "even more used by a lot of the most vicious militias and insurgent groups and terrorist groups."
    Clinton has been outspoken about her support for abortion rights during her presidential campaign, pledging to "defend a woman's right to choose" at events across the country.
    On Sunday, Clinton said, "I am pro-choice and I am because I have over many years thought that it's best to leave this very difficult decision to an individual woman, her faith, her family, her physician."
    House Democrats have recently pushed the Obama administration to re-interpret the Helms Amendment. Earlier this year, 81 Democratic lawmakers sent President Barack Obama a letter urging him to clarify that the amendment "permits exceptions in the events of rape, incest or danger to a woman's life."
    Groups that oppose abortion, however, herald the Helms Amendment as a major victory after Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that affirmed the legality of a woman's right to have an abortion.
      Clinton did not outright say that Helms should be reinterpreted on Sunday night, but she did say that if the United States "can't help them [to get an abortion], then we have to help them in every other way and to get other people to at least provide the options" to women raped in conflict.
      "They will be total outcasts if they have the child of a terrorist or the child of a militia member," Clinton said. "Their families won't take them, their communities won't take them."