Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown has always had a bit of a mixed record when it comes to women’s reproductive rights. The freshman senator was accused during his 2009 – 2010 race of not being “pro-life” enough to appeal to the rigid anti-choice groups who usually back candidates — something the groups decided to overlook in order to steal a senate seat from the Democrats.
Since his election, however, Brown has been mostly consistent in supporting his party’s opposition to reproductive autonomy. For example, he stood firmly with the GOP on the Blunt Amendment which would have allowed religious employers to refuse to cover contraception in their insurance plans, even when polls were showing that women in his state strongly disagreed with him.
But now Brown is stepping away from his party on abortion, at least when it comes to women in the military.
Whether or not military women should be allowed coverage of safe abortion care in cases of sexual assault has been a hotly contested issue in today’s radically anti-choice GOP. Although the Hyde Amendment allows taxpayer-funding for abortions in the case of rape, that rule doesn’t appear to translate over to the military, where a soldier who becomes pregnant due to rape must pay out of pocket for a safe abortion. An amendment by New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen sought to change that fact, and Brown is now vocally supporting that move. “It’s a simple issue,” Brown said on the Senate floor. “Those who are serving in harm’s way who are victims of such horrific crimes should be afforded the same rights as citizens they protect.”
It’s a different stance than the one Brown took in 2010, when Brown rejected the call to end the ban on elective abortions in military hospitals, which would let service women pay for abortions out of pocket as long as they used their own money. According to Political Correspondent Shira Shoenberg at MassLive, the difference is that allowing abortions after rape conforms with the Hyde amendment, where as elective abortions would not, even if the government wasn’t providing the funding.
“Opponents told the New York Times that they worried federal funds would be used to pay for abortions, since the abortions would take place at public facilities,” writes Shoenberg. “Proponents of the amendment said the full cost of the abortions would be paid for by private money.”
The idea that just the fact that the hospital itself is funded with taxpayer dollars means that the taxpayers are somehow “paying” for abortions is a stretch, but in an age when some nurses claim that simply walking past post-op patients equates to “participating in an abortion,” the misinformation regarding military women isn’t that shocking.
Still, that Brown is willing to advocate for providing military women the same abortion access as those who are not in the military but rely on government funding is a small step for reproductive rights, and should be commended all the same.