Skip to main content

Military Abortion Clinics: A Sign of the Times

  • Author:
  • Updated:

According to this Politico article:

With a couple of quiet changes to long-standing rules, the military is on track to make 2010 a year in which its reproductive health policies are significantly liberalized.

In February, the military began requiring all of its hospitals to stock emergency contraceptives. And now, a Senate amendment to the defense authorization bill would authorize military hospitals to perform elective abortions.

"I do think it's a sign of the times," said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. "It's the recognition that reproductive health care for women is basic health care. The world has changed, and women play a larger role in the military. These are all very positive steps."

These shifts in military policy are particularly notable in light of the numerous anti-abortion provisions flying through state legislatures. Catalyzed by the health reform debate, anti-abortion advocates have just passed some of the most restrictive abortion laws in recent memory....

The federal government usually has little influence on reproductive health policy....

So it's rare to see much movement on abortion policy at the federal level. Anti-abortion advocates frame the shift toward more liberal reproductive rights within the military as driven by a Democratic Congress and a pro-abortion-rights administration.

"They're using the military as a wedge and a way to implement their agenda," Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life, said of her opponents. "I see them being very craven in looking to use the military to put the stamp of approval of federal government on abortion."...

Current law, passed by congressional Republicans in 1995, bars any elective abortions at military hospitals....

To be sure, legislators have introduced similar amendments before, all of which have failed. But the proposal, sponsored by Sen. Roland Burris (D-IL), hits the floor in a markedly different atmosphere: It's the first to be proposed during the Obama administration and may avoid a heated debate, with most social activists focused on the "don't ask, don't tell" provision.

Abortion rights groups are confident that, this time around, the political landscape is amenable to a decision in their favor.

"In the Senate, things are good," said Richards.... "The good thing is, this amendment puts the issue squarely on the table: How can you prohibit women serving overseas from having the same rights as women in the United States?"

Anti-abortion-rights advocates like Americans United for Life have already begun laying groundwork for a campaign to keep the military abortion ban in place and lobbying legislators to vote down the amendment when it comes to the floor....

But privately, anti-abortion advocates admit they're uncertain whether they have the votes to stand in the way. "Our hope would be that the amendment is stripped on the Senate floor, but right now we don't have a majority of pro-life members," one anti-abortion advocate told Politico....

Activists on both sides of the issue expect a vote by the end of this month at the earliest and definitely before the summer recess.

[Photo of Richards via Politico]


Popular Video