Senate Democrats Vote to Fund Abortions at Military Hospitals

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 25, 2012   |   12:41PM   |   Washington, DC

Democrats in the Senate Armed Services Committee, yesterday, voted to add a provision to the 2013 defense authorization bill, that forces taxpayers to fund abortions at U.S. military base hospitals.

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.

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.

Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a pro-abortion New Hampshire Democrat, has introduced an amendment to the appropriations measure that would reverse the law. Abortion advocates are urging Democratic Leader Harry Reid to schedule a vote on the amendment.

“This is about equity,” Shaheen said. “Civilian women who depend on the federal government for health insurance — whether they are postal workers or Medicaid recipients — have the right to access affordable abortion care if they are sexually assaulted. It is only fair that the thousands of brave women in uniform fighting to protect our freedoms are treated the same.”

Backers of the amendment are using the issue of sexual assaults in the military as platform for pushing lifting the abortion funding ban, by saying that women military members who become victims of such assaults and wind up pregnant should be able to have an abortion of their unborn child paid for at taxpayer expense.

The committee voted 16-10 to include abortion funding in the defense bill and the bill now heads to the Senate floor for consideration. The Republican-led House of representatives will not likely include the abortion funding provision in its version of the measure — making it so Republicans and Democrats will fight in a conference committee over whether it will appear in the final version of the bill that goes to President Barack Obama.

Three Republican members of the armed services committee, Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Susan Collins of Maine, voted for the measure while Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska voted against it.

Horace Cooper, an adjunct fellow with the National Center for Public Policy, told the Air Force Times he doesn’t think abortion funding will remain in the bill.

“This is a solution in search of a problem,” Cooper said. “We don’t minimize [sexual] assaults when they happen, and in particular when they happen to people who are enlisted or wear the uniform, but at the same time it’s just unfair to argue that this is the crisis du jour. … This is part of expanding pushing abortion and trying as much as possible to find circumstances to use taxpayer dollars to do it.”

The Senate voted on a similar effort to promote tax-funded abortions at U.S. military base hospitals in 2010. 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. The 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.

The increase in the number of pro-life and Republican votes in the Senate after the 2010 elections 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 his group supports the ban. 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 the 2010 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.”

Christian Medical Association Vice President Gene Rudd, MD, who received the Gorgas Award for distinguished service in the American military, previously told 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.”