Military abortion issue returns

June 8, 2010


Three months after abortion nearly derailed President Obama’s health care bill, the hot-button issue is back before Congress with an amendment to the Senate’s defense policy bill that would end the military’s long-established ban on allowing abortions in its overseas hospitals.

The change was sponsored by Sen. Roland W. Burris, Illinois Democrat, and passed by the Senate Armed Services Committee in late May. It would require women to pay for abortions upfront and without government funds, but would allow doctors at military hospitals to perform the procedures if those conditions are met.

The amendment would overturn a policy put into place by congressional Republicans in the mid-1990s that restricted abortions at military hospitals only to cases of rape, incest, or when the woman’s life is in danger.

Military personnel deserve “the highest quality care,” said Mr. Burris, and “that includes allowing women and their families the right to choose at facilities operated under the Department of Defense.” The amendment passed the committee on a 15-12 vote.

But the provision has angered pro-life lawmakers, who argue that taxpayer dollars would still go to fund doctors and surgical equipment used for abortions in military hospitals, and questioned why the policy change was implemented in the annual defense policy bill.

“This administration and its allies seem determined to upend widely accepted compromises reached on a variety of issues,” said Rep. William M. “Mac” Thornberry, Texas Republican and a member of the House Armed Services Committee. “Most Americans would find it deeply offensive to have their taxpayer dollars go to pay for abortions in the military.”

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