House Defeats Effort to Allow Abortions at U.S. Military Hospitals

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 26, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

House Defeats Effort to Allow Abortions at U.S. Military Hospitals

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
May 26, 2005

Washington, DC ( — In what has become an annual debate, the House of Representatives again turned back efforts by abortion advocates to allow abortions to be performed at military base hospitals and clinics.

The U.S. military currently allows doctors to perform abortions at military medical facilities only in the rare cases or rape or incest or to prevent the death of the mother.

Three California Democratic representatives argued that women shouldn’t have to go someplace else to have an abortion.

However, opponents of their proposal said taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to finance military bases and personnel performing abortions.

"Allowing self-funded abortions will simply turn our military hospitals overseas into abortion clinics," Rep. Jim Ryun, a Kansas Republican, said during the debate, according to an AP report.

The House ultimately rejected the proposal on a 233-194 vote. Previous attempts to rescind the military abortion rules have also failed.

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.

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.

President Bush has made it clear he would veto any Defense Department legislation that included allowing military base abortions.

Approximately 15 percent of American military personnel are women. According to the Department of Defense, only four abortions were performed in 2003.