Congress Considering Abortion Support in Defense Bill

House Republicans are resisting the drive to expand access to abortion for military servicewomen.

(photo: United States Mint image)

WASHINGTON — The Senate passed its version of the defense bill Dec. 4, which expands access to abortion for military servicewomen.

The amendment sponsored by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., as part of the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, would end the existing ban on women in the military using their health insurance to procure abortions when they have been the victims of rape or incest.

The House’s version of the bill does not include the amendment, and the two have yet to be reconciled with one another.

The Senate bill, with the Shaheen amendment, was supported by Republican senators John McCain of Arizona and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, among others. The Dec. 4 vote in the Senate was unanimous.

Ayotte has traditionally been a staunch pro-life supporter, even speaking at Susan B. Anthony List functions. She has a 100% rating from National Right to Life Committee, and 0% from both Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America.

On Dec. 5, Sen. Shaheen sent a letter to members of the House asking that the amendment be retained in the bill’s final version.

“Women in our Armed Forces do not have access to the same critical and legal reproductive health care as the civilians they protect,” she wrote. “If a woman in the military is a victim of rape or incest, current law prohibits the Department of Defense from covering an abortion.”

“Conversely, women who receive health care under Medicaid, Medicare, the Indian Health Service, or through the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program, are all able to receive insurance coverage for an abortion if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.”

The letter further characterized the status quo as an “inequitable restriction on female service members’ health care.”

This appeal to give servicewomen equal access to abortion was signed by pro-life senator Ayotte.

In his 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), Pope John Paul II confirmed that “that the direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being is always gravely immoral.”

Added Blessed John Paul II, “The deliberate decision to deprive an innocent human being of his life is always morally evil and can never be licit either as an end in itself or as a means to a good end” (no. 57).


McCain Downplays Abortion

Ayotte’s compromise on this pro-life issue comes in the wake of McCain’s call to fellow Republicans to play down their beliefs about abortion and life issues.

Appearing on Fox News Sunday on Nov. 25, he suggested that while “I can state my position on abortion,” Republicans should “other than that, leave the issue alone when we are in the kind of economic situation and, frankly, national security situation that we’re in.”

At a press conference Dec. 5, Major General Dennis Laich spoke in support of the amendment expanding abortion access, saying that “our military women deserve the same respect and compassion that we extend to other women in such traumatic circumstances.”

Existing law allows the Defense Department to provide coverage for abortion only when the servicewoman’s life is in danger.

The offices of Senators McCain, Shaheen, and Ayotte did not respond to EWTN News requests for comment.

Those negotiating the reconciliation of the Senate and House versions are Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., and Rep. Howard McKeon, R-Calif. All but McKeon favor the Senate’s version.