Over 200 physicians who served soldiers in the U.S. military are asking senators to resist efforts to allow abortions at military hospitals.
"Such a drastic and controversial change in longstanding federal policy could disrupt military medicine in a time of war and also undermine military physician retention and recruitment," they stated in a letter sent Tuesday by the Christian Medical Association.
In May, the Senate Armed Services Committee passed a provision that would repeal the ban on privately financed abortions at military hospitals and bases. The amendment was included in the proposed 2011 Defense Authorization bill.
It was sponsored by Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) who said the current ban prevents women "from exercising their legally-protected right to choose simply because they are stationed overseas."
A similar amendment failed in 2006.
Gene Rudd, senior vice president of the Christian Medical Association, argued that the morale among those serving would suffer if the ban is lifted.
"Morale is a key component of military effectiveness," he said in a statement. "If enacted, requiring military physicians to perform abortions threatens military readiness."
Rudd contended that approving the amendment would also discourage young doctors from joining the military.
"In addition to facilitating further destruction of unborn life, the provision will place military physicians with life-honoring convictions in the unenviable position of either disobeying orders, abandoning their conscience, or seeking objector status," he pointed out.
And a reduced number of physicians would reduce patient access, the physicians stated in their letter to senators.
"Reducing physicians and patient access during two wars and at a time of a growing and severe national shortage of physicians – especially in the fields of obstetrics and gynecology and family medicine – is hardly wise policy, regardless of one's views on abortion," they contended.
The physicians protesting the proposed amendment cited a Freedom2Care poll that reveals that 95 percent of faith-based physicians will leave medicine if pressured to compromise their life-affirming ethical commitments.
"So we urge you to vote NO on the defense authorization bill unless Senator Roland Burris' amendment to strike Section 1093(b) of Title 10 of the US Code is removed."
Since 1996, abortions have been prohibited by Department of Defense medical personnel or in DoD medical facilities, except when the life of the mother is at risk or when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.
CMA Director of Global Health Outreach Col. Donald Thompson, who recently retired from the Air Force, believes that approving the provision will drive out of the military those most likely to serve.
"Our military exists to fight our nation's wars, not to be [an] ideological playground," he asserted.