March 26, 2013 — Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) introduced legislation (HR 1389) Thursday that would expand access to women's reproductive care at military facilities, the Washington Post's "She The People" reports.
The Military Access to Reproductive Care and Health for Military Women Act would allow servicewomen to receive abortion care at military hospitals if they use private funds. The measure would preserve a "conscience clause" to allow military physicians who oppose abortion to refuse to perform the procedure.
Current law allows military hospitals to provide abortion services only if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest or the woman's life is endangered. Under any other circumstances, women cannot obtain abortions at such hospitals, even if they pay for the procedure with their own money.
Abortion-rights advocates say that the policy impedes abortion access for the 200,000 servicewomen who rely on military hospitals for their health care. Many women are forced to seek out providers overseas, where language barriers or unsanitary conditions pose a risk to their health. In addition, a servicewoman might need to ask for leave from a commanding officer who might not approve of the situation, placing her military career at risk.
Donna Crane, policy director for NARAL Pro-Choice America, said, "Service women give the greatest sacrifice but are denied ... their constitutional right to abortion."
Slaughter noted that the measure has won the support of the Department of Defense, suggesting that her bill will be approved. "Chances are better than they would have been three or four years ago," she said, adding, "I think more attention is being paid to the abuse of women and to the second-class citizenship of women in the military" (Reese, "She The People," Washington Post, 3/25).