April 24, 2013 —Senate Democrats have introduced legislation (S 777) that would allow servicewomen to obtain abortions at military hospitals if they pay for the procedure with private funds, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports.
Under current law, abortions are prohibited at military facilities, except in cases of rape, incest or threats to a woman's life.
Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) introduced a companion House bill (HR 1389) in March.
Bill Registers Within Debate Over Military Sexual Assault
The legislation -- dubbed the MARCH Act, for Military Access to Reproductive Care and Health -- comes amid a larger debate over how to address sexual assaults in the military, according to "Healthwatch." The Pentagon estimates that only 3,000 of the approximately 19,000 sexual assaults believed to occur annually are reported, partly because servicewomen fear that speaking up would put their careers at risk.
Supporters of the bill said the current policy barring abortions at military hospitals means that servicewomen cannot exercise their right to an abortion. They also argued that women serving our country deserve access to safe abortion and that sexual assault survivors need access to abortion services at military facilities regardless of whether they have reported the crime.
In a statement, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) -- the bill's lead sponsor -- said, "This legislation would help to respect our service women's right to privacy while ensuring that they receive the best medical care possible in a timely manner."
Opponents of the bill said abortions should never be allowed at military hospitals because the facilities are publicly funded (Viebeck, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 4/23).