Friday, June 11, 2010

Defense bill could allow abortions in U.S. military facilities

By Justine Kuruoglu
MCCL Intern

The rights of the unborn are under attack once again. Current law does not allow the use of any federal funds for abortion services in military hospitals except in cases of incest or rape. In addition, personal funds cannot currently be used to pay for abortions in military hospitals. However, this will all change if a new abortion provision gets passed in the Senate defense bill. If passed, not only will accessibility to abortions increase, it also has the potential to permit late-term and even sex-selection abortions.

An amendment to the Senate defense authorization bill (S 3280) would allow military servicewomen to obtain abortions at military hospitals if they used private funds. Sponsored by Sen. Roland Burris, D-Ill., the amendment would repeal a policy implemented in the mid-1990s that prohibits abortion at military hospitals, except in cases of rape, incest or threats to the life of the mother.

Burris said in a statement that it is "critical that we provide the highest quality care for our service members," which "includes allowing women and their families the right to choose at facilities operated under the Department of Defense." The amendment has been endorsed by NARAL Pro-Choice America and the American Civil Liberties Union.

In a May 28 floor speech, Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., said the abortion provision would allow military medical facilities "to be used for abortions performed late term, abortions performed for purposes of sex selection, abortions performed for any reason, abortions at will." The amendment is "another piece of social engineering, another vast and serious and consequential departure from long-standing Department of Defense policy," Wicker said, adding, "I guarantee you this will be challenged on the floor for the House and Senate with separate amendments."

The Senate is expected to vote on the defense bill later this month, after which it will go to conference committee.

The House version of the bill (HR 5136) does not include the amendment, and House Armed Services Committee Chair Ike Skelton, D-Mo., has said he is opposed to changing the current policy. Pro-life Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., said members of the GOP will "stand firm, and I welcome the fight ... if [Democrats] want to bring it."

As a Washington Times editorial puts it, Burris' amendment is "another example of a stealth measure that has become a commonplace tactic in a Democratic Congress bent on sneaking through unpopular legislation." Abortion advocates claim the amendment is necessary for women's safety, but "a safe alternative for all concerned already exists, namely taking leave to come home and give birth," the Times explains.