Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC), the ultraconservative politician famous for his 30-year assault on women’s rights, announced his retirement today, effective at the end of his 2003 term. Throughout his tenure, Helms orchestrated several major rollbacks against women’s rights, including the 1973 ban on U.S funds to international organizations offering abortions. His most recent attacks have included attempts to defund colleges and universities offering emergency contraception to students and attempts to strip US aid to the U.N. Population Fund.
Through his position as the Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Helms has single-handedly held up floor consideration for several years of the U.N. treaty on gender discrimination, the Convention for the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). He is also spearheading efforts to scuttle U.S. ratification of an International Criminal Court, which would deal with crimes against humanity, such as genocide, rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, forced sterilization, forced pregnancy, and other forms of sexual violence.