Senate Opposes Bill Making Military Hospitals Abortion Centers

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 9, 2010   |   5:12PM   |   Washington, DC

The Senate turned back a second attempt by pro-abortion Democrats to stop a Republican filibuster against a Defense Department funding measure that would also allow abortions at military base hospitals.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid couldn’t find enough votes for cloture to stop debate and cast a vote on the legislation, but brought the measure up for a vote anyway.

His first attempt in September to get 60 votes for cloture failed as Republicans filibustered the measure in part because of the Burris amendment that would overturn a longstanding ban on abortions at taxpayer-funded military hospitals both domestically and abroad.

Today’s second effort failed on a 57-40 vote with all Democrats voting for cloture to move ahead with the bill and the abortions, except for Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who compiled a pro-life voting record as the state’s governor. Republicans again voted no, with pro-abortion Republicans staying with the remainder of their party except Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.

Without passage of the Defense Department funding bill by the end of this session, the increase in the number of pro-life and Republican votes in the Senate after January makes it all but certain that abortion activists will not be able to overturn the military hospital abortion ban.

Douglas Johnson, the legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee, told LifeNews.com yesterday that his group remains opposed to the bill because of the Burris amendment.

“NRLC is opposed to invoking cloture on the motion to proceed, and reserves the right to score the roll call on that motion, because the bill contains the Burris Amendment, which would repeal the longstanding ban on the use of military medical facilities for elective abortions,” he said.

The Susan B. Anthony List and Americans United for Life have also actively urged senators to oppose the bill because of the Burris amendment. 

SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser responded to the vote saying Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid ignored the vote in last month’s elections:

“Today, the Senate’s pro-abortion leadership ignored the will of the American people and tried to advance a bill that would allow taxpayer-subsidized abortion on over 400 U.S. military bases, both at home and abroad.  On November 2, voters sent Congress clear marching orders to end taxpayer funding of abortion.  But the Defense Authorization Bill containing the Burris Amendment would turn over 400 domestic and international military bases into abortion clinics, using personnel and equipment subsidized by taxpayers.  Medical facilities are meant to preserve life, not destroy it.  Military physicians understand this better than anyone which is why they refused to participate when the practice was permitted during the Clinton Administration, forcing the Administration to recruit civilian abortionists.”

Americans United for Life Action president Charmaine Yoest also responded:

“We applaud the outstanding leaders in the Senate who led the fight to win today’s key vote rejecting taxpayer-funded abortion in the military. They stood on principle and scored again a major victory for our service members and their families. We know that more than 70 percent of Americans oppose taxpayer funding of abortion, and this vote reflected the moral and fiscal values of Americans.”

In the last vote on cloture, Democrats voted almost unanimously, 56-43, to allow debate on the bill and Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, who maintains he is pro-life, joined them. Republicans unanimously voted in opposition to ending the filibuster, including pro-abortion members who wanted the chance to offer amendments to the bill.

Current law in effect since 1996 prohibits the performance of abortion by Department of Defense medical personnel or at DOD medical facilities. A separate provision prohibits the use of DOD funds for abortion except to save the life of the mother.

Abortion advocates have tried for years to force military base hospitals to do abortions on female service members. In 2006, the House rejected by a vote of 237-191, an amendment similar to the Burris amendment.

The Burris amendment is more expansive than a 2006 effort because it allows abortion on both domestic and overseas military base hospitals.

Sen Roger Wicker led the fight in the committee against the amendment and planned an amendment of his own on the Senate floor to strike the language. However, pro-life groups urged a filibuster against the bill because pro-abortion Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid would not allow Wicker’s amendment to be considered.

The Senate Armed Services Committee voted 15-12 for the amendment with all Republicans and Nelson voting against it and all other Democrats voting for it.

Christian Medical Association Vice President Gene Rudd, MD, who received the Gorgas Award for distinguished service in the American military, previously told LifeNews.com that allowing abortions on military bases is inappropriate.

“If enacted, requiring military physicians to perform abortions threatens military readiness. Morale will suffer among those already serving. Morale is a key component of military effectiveness,” he said. “Furthermore, just as we have seen a marked decrease in young doctors entering OB/Gyn training for fear of being forced to do abortion, this requirement will discourage young doctors from joining the military.”

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.