National Catholic Register

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Abortion Activists Pushing Military to Adopt Anti-Life Agenda

BY Joshua Mercer

June 23-29, 2002 Issue | Posted 6/23/02 at 1:00 PM

 

WASHINGTON — The military has come under fire from abortion activists on two fronts in a major effort to force the Pentagon to adopt an abortion culture.

A federal judge in Boston has ordered the military's insurance to pay for an abortion committed on a child suffering from anencephaly, a condition in which the baby has only a brain stem and survives for only a few days after birth.

Under federal law passed in the 1977 and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1980, the military's insurance cannot pay for any abortion unless the mother would otherwise die.

But U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Gernter ordered the military June 6 to compensate Maureen Britell for an abortion on her 5-month-old anencephalic unborn child.

“Through the funding power the government seeks to encourage Britell and women similarly situated to suffer by carrying their anencephalic fetuses until they are born to a certain death,” Gertner wrote in her decision. “This rationale is no rationale at all. It is irrational and, worse yet, it is cruel.”

Britell currently runs a pro-abortion lobby group called Voters for Choice in Washington, D.C. She hoped that the federal judge's decision would open the door for more taxpayer-supported abortions.

“I am relieved that the court has realized how harmful military restrictions on abortions are to women. I only hope that this decision will help lift the heavy burden from the other families who will face the devastation of fatal fetal anomalies,” Britell said.

That's a decision for the American people to decide, not a federal judge, said New Jersey Republican Chris Smith.

“The violence of abortion should never be subsidized by taxpayers. Higher courts have consistently agreed with laws that restrict government funding of abortion; I am sure they will in this case when it is appealed,” Smith said. “I don't think Judge Gertner can ignore all those rulings based on her arbitrary decision that anencephalic children are not human.”

Plan B Blocked

The abortion-related ruling came on the heels of successful efforts by pro-life members of Congress to block a Pentagon order mandating that all Department of Defense clinics stock and dispense levonorgestrel, a drug known as the “morning-after pill” and marketed as Plan B.

If taken within 72 hours of sexual intercourse, the pill can act either to prevent fertilization from occurring or as an abortifacient, ending a pregnancy when a new human life has already commenced.

According to memos obtained by the Register, DoD's Pharmacy and Therapeutics (P&T) Executive Council “recommended the addition of levonorgestrel 0.75 mg (Plan B) to the Basic Core Formulary (BCF).” The Basic Core Formulary is the roster of drugs that all military pharmacies are required to stock and dispense to all patients.

The executive director of the council signed the order April 3 and notifications were sent out to military pharmacists around the country.

One Navy pharmacist, opposed on moral grounds to dispensing the morning-after pill, reached members of Congress in early May — the same week the House was to authorize Defense Department funding.

“We put the word out that members of Congress were going to author morning-after pill amendments to the DoD authorization bill,” an aide to House conservatives said. “And within 24 hours we learned that the military-wide morning-after pill mandate was pulled.”

A May 8 Defense Department memo confirmed this, stating that the minutes of “the May 2002 DoD P&T Executive Council will reflect that Plan B has NOT been approved for addition to the BCF at this time.”

Battle Continues

But the morning-after pill might still be found at some of the Pentagon's 76 military hospitals and more than 500 health clinics worldwide.

The May 8 memo, written by Col. Dan Remund, co-chair of the DoD's P&T Executive Council, said that while the current policy doesn't force military pharmacies to carry the drug, it doesn't prohibit its dispensing.

“Pharmaceutical agents added to the BCF are required to be carried on every MTF formulary. As a result of Plan B's removal from the BCF, each MTF's P&T committee must re-evaluate whether this product is within the scope of practice at the TF and whether the MTF wants to continue to have Plan B on its formulary,” Remund wrote.

The Department of Defense didn't return requests for comment, but Army Maj. Steve Stover confirmed to CNSNews.com that the current policy allows for individual military pharmacies to dispense the morning-after pill.

“It's basically up to the individual pharmacy, and it's not just the Army, it's a DoD policy that's been in place for years,” he told the online news service.

But retired Army Col. Robert Maginnis, who is now vice president for policy with the Family Research Council, said Stover's statement underplays the policy shifts made this spring by Congress regarding the dispensing of the morning-after pill.

“[House Armed Services Chairman Bob] Stump said you better pull this,” Maginnis said. “But the bureaucrats' language is ‘we'll re-evaluate it.’”

Maginnis is worried that without constant vigilance by congressional pro-lifers, abortion activists will succeed in forcing their agenda on the military. He noted that California Democrat Loretta Sanchez offers legislation every year to allow abortions on military bases. This year, Congress narrowly defeated her proposal 215-202, meaning that a switch of only seven votes and the bill would have passed.

“Maybe it's dead for this year,” Maginnis said of efforts to force the military to change its policies. “But you can't take your eye off it because they'll try to sneak it back in.”

Joshua Mercer writes from Washington, D.C.