Anti-Choicers in a Time of War

At the same time that our government is bolstering support for the “War on Terrorism” by condemning the Taliban’s treatment of women, U.S. lawmakers are putting restrictions on our own reproductive rights.

After the September 11 attacks, the U.S. Congress agreed to table all politically divisive legislation in order to focus more energy on security-related issues. However, according to William Lutz, the deputy communications director of the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), “Despite the call for nonpartisanship in Congress, anti-choice lawmakers continue to push their agenda.”

Recently, Senator Bob Smith (R.-N.H.) proposed a State of the Senate that recognizes the existence of “Post-Abortion Stress Syndrome” (PASS or PAS), and it passed through the Senate without debate. This resolution states that “the Secretary of Health and Human Services, acting through the director of NIH [National Institutes of Health] and the director of the National Institute of Mental Health should expand and intensify research and related activities of the Institute with respect to post-abortion depression and post-abortion psychosis.”

Whether PAS actually exists or whether it was fabricated by anti-choicers is a source of serious contention. “In a normal appropriations process you’d have pro-choice lawmakers arguing against such legislation, but post 9/11, these debates aren’t happening,” says Lutz. This resolution is likely to be dropped in the upcoming joint Senate-House committee. However, as Kathryn Jean Lopez, executive editor of anti-choice National Review Online, noted: “(This resolution’s) passage in the first place, without heated debate, marks a first and is worth noting.”

The preliminary passage of the PAS resolution is only one of a number of anti-choice legislative successes since September 11. On September 24, the U.S. House of Representatives defeated an amendment to the 2002 Department of Defense Authorization Bill that would have allowed women in the military and family of military personnel stationed abroad to obtain abortions at military health facilities. Currently, military women overseas can’t terminate unwanted pregnancies at military hospitals, even if they are willing and able to pay for the procedure, except in cases of rape, incest, or endangerment of their own lives. More than 100,000 women live on military bases abroad and are affected by these laws.

Since 1995, when the ban on military abortions was written into law, pro-choice lawmakers have tried to overthrow the decision, to no avail. But never before was the law as relevant as it is today, in the wake of September 11 as troops are mobilizing. “Think about it,” Lutz says. “As our women in uniform gear up to defend freedom, anti-choice lawmakers block an attempt to let servicewomen exercise their freedom to choose.”

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