A little-known amendment that would allow abortions at military hospitals is advancing in Congress.
Tucked inside the massive Pentagon policy bill is a provision that would lift the ban on privately-funded, elective abortions at military hospitals. The Senate Armed Services Committee in late May voted 15 to 12 to repeal the ban that has been in place since 1996.
Abortions at military facilities are restricted to cases of rape, incest or if the life of the mother is in danger.
Advocates of repealing the abortion ban at military facilities argue that the procedure is paid for by the servicewomen, not by tax dollars. They also contend that military women serving in countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan have no real options in finding a facility off the base that would provide the procedure.
"Every woman honorably serving our country in the U.S. military and the spouses of military personnel stationed around the world deserve access to the full range of reproductive health care available to women in the United States," said Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards after the Senate committee voted to repeal the "discriminatory and dangerous ban."
But opponents of the amendment point out that although the women pay for the actual procedure they are using medical personnel and facilities funded by taxpayers.
"When we hire abortionists, when we provide operation rooms and recovery rooms and nurses, all of whom would participate in the killing of that child and wounding of that mother by the way of abortion, that is facilitation, that is public funding," argued Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), who is opposed to the repeal, according to Fox News.
During the Senate committee vote, the amendment was sponsored by Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) and supported mostly along party lines with one exception – pro-life Democrat Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska who voted against it.
In addition to considering repealing the ban on abortions at military bases, lawmakers are also wrestling with an amendment that would repeal the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that is also part of the defense authorization bill. The House voted on May 27 to repeal the DADT rule, which bars gays and lesbians from openly serving in the military, but agreed to wait until a Pentagon study is released in December before putting any changes into effect.
Although the Senate Armed Service Committee has also voted to repeal the policy, the amendment is expected to face a filibuster in the full Senate.