Senate Committee Votes On A Repeal Of Abortion Ban for Servicewomen

Sen. Roland Burris (D-IL) introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would repeal the long-standing ban on abortion care for military women seeking an abortion on a U.S. military base – even for a servicewoman willing to use her own money. According to the ACLU:

The ban, which applies even if a woman pays for the procedure with her own private funds and in cases where a woman’s health is at risk, was first put into place in 1988 with an internal Department of Defense memorandum. In 1993, President Bill Clinton reversed the policy by executive order but Congress intervened two years later to codify and reinstate the ban.

The amendment, therefore, would codify the repeal of the ban and take the ball out of play, so to speak. By leaving it up to a Democratic president to issue an executive order and then up to a Republican congress to reinstate the ban, we’re just playing ping pong with military women’s health and lives. From NARAL Pro-Choice America:

Since 1979, the Department of Defense (DoD) appropriations bills have prohibited the use of federal funds for abortion services at overseas military hospitals in almost all cases. In 1985, the ban was made permanent by the DoD authorization bill.1 In 1988, DoD issued an administrative order – without congressional consultation – extending the funding ban to prohibit women from obtaining abortion care with their own funds at military facilities overseas. Prior to the 1988 restrictions, women would have to pay for the procedures themselves.

Vania Leveille, ACLU Legislative Counsel says,

“There are hundreds of thousands of women serving in our military who put their lives on the line to protect our freedoms yet they are prevented from exercising their own reproductive freedom. Servicewomen stationed overseas are disproportionately affected by this ban. Allowing American servicewomen to use their own private funds to obtain abortion care at U.S. military facilities is fundamental and should never have been questioned in the first place. Senator Burris’ leadership was crucial to this victory and we are grateful to members of the Senate Armed Services Committee for voting to repeal this unjust and unfair policy.”

In order for a woman fighting for our country, currently, to exercise her right to a safe and legal abortion, using her own money, she must first seek abortion care off of a United States military base (and, of course, if abortion is not legal in the country in which she is currently stationed, then what?), then she must request leave stating the reason for her leave and thirdly she must, of course, have the time and money to seek safe abortion care wherever she can find it. Barring women from using their own money to exercise a legal right to access the care they decide is best for them endangers women’s health and lives. Seems to me that the Stupak Amendment is the not so long lost child of this inequitable abortion ban for military women; barring women from using our own money to pay for a legal procedure.

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  • mechashiva

    I’m really hopeful and excited about this. If women were able to have abortions at military facilities, it would be beneficial on numerous levels. Not only would it directly benefit our servicewomen (and their units), it could help to dissolve some of the sexism in the military.


    While I was working at an abortion clinic, we saw many servicewomen (mostly stationed in Japan and Southeast Asia, but a few coming from Iraq and Afghanistan). They had to request leave, which meant explaining their situation to their command. Their units were short-handed, which made their peers resentful. There is a prevailing attitude in the military that women get pregnant on purpose in order to get re-assigned to a cushier location (particularly a common attitude in the Navy, in-which sailors are often jealous of anyone who gets shore command for any reason), and then they “just have abortions” after the reassignment so they can stay. Or they “just get pregnant” and “just have abortions” to get a little bit of leave (more common attitude in combat zones). I’m not making this up. I’ve heard these attitudes directly from male military personnel, and the patients I saw confirmed that it is a widespread problem.

  • catseye71352

    Now if we can just get the military to address the horrendous problem of endemic rape of servicewomen by their so-called “brothers in arms”…….

  • prowomen

    Good for Sen. Burris.  We need more men defending the rights of women.  If laws or regulations were adopted by a majority of women that servicemen couldn’t use their own money to pay for Viagra or a prostate operation or a vasectomy, the reaction would be volatile.  


    Since donating money to a political campaign is considered a right to expression of free speech, at the very least the government is illegally restricting the right of free speech but, also, the right to religious freedom, liberty and privacy, and the law blatantly discriminates against women.  That medical procedure should be provided just as any other medical procedure is for women in the military.  It is worse than Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, since it endangers women’s lives.    


    If a bullet hit a servicewoman in the uterus on her way to an abortionist in a foreign country, would the military hospital then remove the two-month fetus along with the bullet to accommodate her choice and health?  If so, would they charge her later for part of her medical care?  Would it make any difference if she were raped?  How does that work?  How would her abortion be handled if she were the daughter of a general?


    It’s a monstrous law solely for the purpose of accommodating religious extremists who have taken over the Republican Party, which is directly responsible for the deaths of numerous women as a result of the Hyde Amendment and similar edicts.  


    Web sites should list the names of legislators who vote for any misogynistic laws, including this one, and when they’re up for reelection.


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