Planned Parenthood Federation of America applauds the Senate Armed Services Committee for passing an amendment offered by Senator Roland Burris (D-IL) to the National Defense Authorization Act that would repeal the ban on privately funded abortion care for servicewomen.
“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 Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “The vote repealing this discriminatory and dangerous ban is the first step to ensuring that servicewomen can use their own private money for abortion care when they are serving overseas.”
The amendment passed the Senate Armed Services Committee with a vote of 16–10.*
This amendment simply allows a servicewoman to use her private dollars to pay for an abortion at the secure military hospital where she currently gets care. It does not change current federal policy prohibiting federal funding of abortion.
The current ban on privately funded abortions in military facilities threatens the health and lives of women serving overseas. A servicewoman in need of medically necessary abortion would be forced to leave the secure military hospital on which she depends and receives health care. She would have to venture out to a local medical facility in the foreign country where she is stationed to obtain an abortion. In many countries where U.S. servicewomen are stationed, abortion care may be inadequate, unsafe or altogether unavailable — forcing a woman into a dangerous, security-compromised situation.
Additionally, this current ban discriminates against servicewomen who are courageously serving our country and unfairly prohibits them from exercising their constitutionally protected right to a safe and legal abortion, simply because they are serving on foreign soil.
As then-Assistant Secretary for Defense Dr. Sue Bailey stated in a 1999 letter to Congress, “The Department (of Defense) believes it is unfair for female service members, particularly those members assigned to overseas locations, to be denied their constitutional right to the full range of reproductive health care." [Letter from Dr. Sue Bailey, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs to the Honorable Loretta Sanchez; May 7, 1999].
This ban extends far beyond prohibiting federal funding of abortion because it prohibits a woman serving overseas from using her own private dollars to obtain an abortion at a military facility. It affects the more than 100,000 women, including active service members and spouses and dependents of military personnel, who live on military bases overseas and rely on military hospitals for their health care.
*Correction: The original press release misstated the vote. The correct committee vote is 15–12.
May 14, 2014