A provision in the proposed 2011 Defense Authorization bill would allow abortions for military women and spouses at Defense Department medical facilities. The provision, included in the bill as an amendment by Sen. Roland Burris, D-Ill., would apply to DoD medical facilities in the U.S. and abroad, but appears to be primarily aimed at making abortions available to deployed servicewomen.
According to Burris, more than 100,000 servicewomen are deployed, many without access to civilian hospitals that perform abortions.
"This [current] ban prevents women from exercising their legally-protected right to choose simply because they are stationed overseas," Burris said in a copy of the amendment posted on his Senate web page.
Under the terms of the amendment, the women would have to pay for abortions, and military doctors and nurses would be able to refuse to take part in the procedures.The abortion amendment has already been targeted by pro-life forces, including the Roman Catholic Archbishop for the Military Services, the Rev. Timothy Broglio, who wrote senators stating that introducing "elective abortion in domestic and overseas military hospitals would pressure military physicians, nurses and associated medical personnel to engage in an act of taking innocent human life."
"Given that abortion is radically different from other medical procedures, military medical personnel themselves have refused to take part in this procedure or even to work where it takes place," he wrote June 17.
The Burris amendment was passed by a 15-12 vote in the Senate Armed Services Committee in a mostly party-line vote. Joe Lieberman, Democrat-turned-Independent from Connecticut, voted with the Democrats while Ben Nelson, D-Neb., crossed over to vote with the Republicans. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, did not vote.
Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., warned the committee that the amendment would turn DoD medical facilities into abortion clinics if it passes into law.
"Our military installations ... will be able to be used for abortions, performed late term, abortions performed for purposes of sex selection, abortions performed for any reason," he was quoted by several media outlets as saying. "Abortion-at-will will be the requirement for our military installations and the medical facilities on those installations."
In California, the executive director of Life Legal Defense Foundation rejected the idea that the amendment would keep taxpayer dollars from being used for abortion.
"It's underwriting the cost [of abortion] with federal funds, even if it's not a direct funding of the procedure," Dana Cody told Military.com. "I'm a military mom and to me it's outrageous that they did this."
Cody argued that once abortion is introduced into a medical facility there would be an emphasis on abortion over mothers giving birth.
"If my son and his wife were expecting a child, I would want them to be supported [by the military hospital], so to feel free to have the baby carried to term and have a child," she said.