Congressional Lawmakers Still Trying to Allow Military Hospital Abortions

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 12, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Congressional Lawmakers Still Trying to Allow Military Hospital Abortions

by Steven Ertelt Editor
August 12, 2004

Washington, DC ( — If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Abortion advocates in Congress are relying on that old adage when it comes to allowing abortions at U.S. military base hospitals.

Although they have failed in the past, pro-abortion lawmakers are using the extended conflict in Iraq as a bullet point in their battle to secure abortions at the taxpayer-funded institutions.

Some 15 percent of Americans who wear a military uniform are women and with the incidence of sexual assault in the military, pro-abortion lawmakers say abortions should be allowed.

"The military does not seem to have adjusted to the various situations that arise when you have males and females living together in the desert for a year at a time," Carrie Brooks, an aide to California Democratic Rep. Loretta Sanchez, told New York Newsday.

Sanchez has been a frequent sponsor of an effort to overturn the ban on military abortions.

But retired Army Sgt. Pauline Keehn, who writes frequently on women in the military, says she supports the abortion ban. She first entered the military in 1971 before the abortion ban was instituted.

"[As] I saw the complications it caused … I was glad to see the restrictions placed on abortions," Keehn told Newsday. She added that lifting the abortion ban would require the military to keep doctors trained in performing abortions on staff — something that’s not needed and takes funds away from other important priorities.

"There are enough problems already surrounding the issue of pregnancy and its effect on deployment. Add the equation of those who choose abortion, and you have a logistical nightmare waiting to happen," Keehn said.

In June, the Senate incorporated into a military funding bill a measure sponsored by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) that would require the Department of Defense to pay for abortions for women in the military who are victims of sexual assault.

The House version of the National Defense Authorization Act (S. 2400), does not contain the pro-abortion language, which a conference committee will likely remove before the bill heads to President Bush for his signature.

Pro-life groups opposed adding the measure to the funding bill.

"The majority of Americans do not want their tax dollars going toward abortion services," Concerned Women for America said in a statement.

However, pro-abortion lawmakers will likely fight to keep it in the legislation.

The pro-life policy on abortions at military bases began as an executive order from the Bush administration in the early 1990s and eventually became law in 1996 when the Republican Congress attached it to a military funding bill that Bill Clinton signed.

Clinton allowed abortions in military facilities from 1993 to 1996 prior to Congress adopting the pro-life law.

During that time, all military physicians — as well as many nurses and supporting personnel — refused to perform or assist in elective abortions. In response, the Clinton administration sought to hire a civilian to perform abortions.

The House and Senate have frequently defeated attempts to overturn the ban. Pro-abortion lawmakers have fared more favorably in the Senate and included a measure overturning the ban in legislation in 2002.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld warned that President Bush would veto the bill unless the provision was dropped from the bill. It was eventually removed.

The military abortion ban allows only abortions needed to save the mother’s life or in cases of rape or incest. According to the Department of Defense, only four such abortions were performed in 2003.