Amendment Would Allow Military Abortions
Special Report - August 24, 2010
When Congress returns from its summer recess in September, the Senate is expected to consider the National Defense Authorization Act, which currently includes an amendment that would repeal the existing federal prohibition on the provision of elective abortions by Department of Defense (DOD) personnel or at DOD facilities, including military bases. The amendment, sponsored by Sen. Rolland Burris (DIllinois) passed the Senate Armed Services Committee by a vote of 1512 with North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr (R) opposing the amendment and North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan (D) supporting it. The amendment would repeal Section 1093(b) of the US Code, which states, “No medical treatment facility or other facility of the Department of Defense may be used to perform an abortion except where the life of the mother would be endangered if the fetus were carried to term or in a case in which the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest.” Section 1093(a) of the US Code currently states, “Funds available to the Department of Defense may not be used to perform abortions except where the life of the mother would be endangered if the fetus were carried to term.” The current bill would maintain this prohibition on funding.
The effect of the Burris amendment would be to delete a longstanding federal policy prohibiting elective abortions on both foreign and domestic U.S. military bases. On August 2, 200 physicians who have served U.S. soldiers and are members of the 16,000-member Christian Medical Association (CMA)including eight from North Carolinasent a letter to senators urging them “to vote NO on the National Defense Authorization Act,” unless the Burris amendment is removed. They emphasized that the current policy has “enabled military physicians to practice medicine according to the life-honoring principles expressed in the Hippocratic oath and Judeo-Christian ethics.” According to the letter, polling indicates that “95 percent [of faith-based physicians] will actually leave medicine if pressured to compromise their life-affirming ethical commitments,” which would result in a reduction of patient access to physicians. The letter continued, “Reducing physicians and patient access during two wars and at a time of a growing and severe shortage of physiciansespecially in the fields of obstetrics and gynecology and family medicineis hardly wise policy, regardless of one’s views on abortion.”
In a press release, CMA Senior Vice President Gene Rudd, MD warned, “just as we have seen a marked decrease in young doctors entering OB/Gyn training for fear of being forced to do abortions, this requirement will discourage young doctors from joining the military.” He continued, “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.”
Col. Donald Thompson, a doctor who serves as CMA’s Director of Global Health Outreach and is retired from the U.S. Air Force, also said in the press release, “This provision would put conscientious military medics on the losing side of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) in key areas crucial to good order and discipline in the military. Our military exists to fight our nation’s wars, not to be a ideological playground. If this provision stays in the NDAA, it will drive out of the military those who are most likely to serve their nation by going in harm’s way.”
A similar measure was rejected by a vote of 237-191 in 2006 by the U.S. House. Additionally, from 1993 to 1996, President Clinton allowed abortions in military facilities, but nearly all military physicians (and many nurses and supporting personnel) refused to perform or assist in elective abortions, which led the administration to try to hire civilians to do them.
Court Upholds Military Abortion Restrictions - August 22, 2005
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