Catholic Bishops Tell Congress: Don’t Turn Military Hospitals in Abortion Centers

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 29, 2010   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Catholic Bishops Tell Congress: Don’t Turn Military Hospitals in Abortion Centers

by Steven Ertelt Editor
June 29
, 2010

Washington, DC ( — The nation’s Catholic bishops have a message for members of Congress: don’t turn American taxpayer-funded military base hospitals into abortion centers. They are oppose language in a Senate bill that would overturn the ban on abortions at the approximately 250 military base hospitals.

Sen. Roland Burris attached an amendment to a bill in the Senate Armed Services Committee that received a 15-12 vote.

All Democrats supported it except for Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, who joined all of the committee’s Republicans in opposition.

In a June 29 letter to members of the Senate, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, said authorizing abortions at military hospitals in this country and around the world is “misguided.”

He urged lawmakers to vote for an expected amendment that would remove the Burris language from the National Defense Authorization Act (S. 3454).

Cardinal DiNardo said it was disingenuous to suggest, as the amendment’s proponents have, that the amendment is “moderate” in requiring patients at military facilities to pay for their abortions.

“Which is a more direct governmental involvement in abortion: That the government reimburses someone else for having done an abortion, or that the government performs the abortion itself and accepts payment for doing so?” the Cardinal wrote.

He cited a 1989 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court saying that “the State need not commit any resources to facilitating abortions, even if it can turn a profit by doing so.”

Cardinal DiNardo also noted the longstanding nature of the current policy against providing abortions at military health facilities, which has been in place for 22 years with the exception of 1993-1995.

“During the brief period when these facilities were told to make abortions available, scarcely any military physician could be found in overseas facilities who was willing to perform abortions,” the Cardinal noted.

Cardinal DiNardo also said that the current military policy is in keeping with federal policy in general, noting: “Other federal health facilities also may not be used for elective abortions, and many states have their own laws against use of public facilities for such abortions.”

Abortion advocates have tried for years to force military bases hospitals to do abortions on female service members. The Burris amendment is more expansive than a 2006 effort because it allows abortion on both domestic and overseas military bases.

Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi led the fight in the committee against the amendment and is expected to offer an amendment of his own to delete the Burris language, although the votes are not likely present to pass it.

Current law prohibits the performance of abortion by Department of Defense medical personnel or in Department of Defense medical facilities except when the life of the mother is at risk or when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. There is no distinction in this policy between military facilities within the United States and those overseas.

A separate provision prohibits the use of Department of Defense taxpayer funds for abortion except to save the life of the mother.

In the new letter, calling on the Senate not to approve the bill unless it maintains current law, as the bill approved by the House of Representatives already does, Cardinal DiNardo concluded that “this amendment presents Congress with the very straightforward question whether it is the task of our federal government to directly promote and facilitate elective abortions."

"During the recent health care reform debate, the President and congressional leadership assured us that they agree it is not," he added.

Archbishop Broglio of the Archdiocese of Military Services had written an earlier letter to the Senate against the proposed policy change. Cardinal DiNardo endorsed his letter as well, noting that it urges Congress “not to impose this tremendous burden on the consciences of Catholic and other health care personnel who joined our armed services to save and protect innocent life, not to destroy it.”

The issue of abortions done at military base medical centers has been around for two decades.

When ex-President Clinton allowed abortions in military facilities from 1993 to 1996, all military physicians (as well as many nurses and supporting personnel) refused to perform or assist in elective abortions. In response, the Clinton administration attempted to hire civilians to do abortions.

Related web sites:

Full text of Cardinal DiNardo’s letter –


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