Congress Upholds Abortion Ban for Servicewomen Overseas

Both the US House and the Senate rejected amendments to $400 billion defense spending bills that would have repealed a ban on abortions for women stationed overseas. The amendments, sponsored in the House by Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) and in the Senate by Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) were rejected on votes of 227 to 201 and 51 to 48. “No woman should be forced to surrender her constitutional rights as they risk their lives to protect our freedom,” Sen. Murray said as reported in the New York Times.

Currently, women stationed overseas and military dependents are not able to obtain abortions at military health facilities, even with private funds, except in cases of rape or incest – which must be paid for with private funds. This policy discriminates against US servicewomen or female military dependents just because they are stationed overseas, as noted by the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA). It also endangers the health of women overseas by forcing those who need an abortion to seek what could be unsafe or illegal services in the host country. In addition, the privacy of these women could be at stake if they are forced to tell a military superior that they need an abortion and therefore need a flight back to the United States, according to PPFA.

Abortion rights supporters in Congress have offered similar amendments on an annual basis since 1996. The ban, which was put into effect by Congress in 1988, was lifted for two years under the Clinton administration but reinstated by Congress in 1996.

LEARN MORE Click here to read women’s narratives about barriers or successes in accessing reproductive health and family planning services.


New York Times 5/23/03; Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report 5/23/03; Planned Parenthood Action Network 5/21/03

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