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Navy Not Required to Cover Abortion of Nonviable Fetus

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Thursday that the US Navy was not responsible for the cost of an abortion for a woman whose fetus had anencephaly. This neural tube defect is always fatal, with only 2 percent of infants surviving more than a week after birth, according to Kaiser. When the Navy refused to cover her abortion, the woman, known as “Jane Doe,” approached the Northwest Women’s Resource Center to challenge the law based on the Navy’s obligation to cover other women’s prenatal care.

While a lower court had ruled in favor of Jane Doe, the Ninth Circuit Court ruled unanimously that the policy, which covers abortion costs only if the woman’s life is in danger, did not violate the rights of military personnel or their spouses. The court cited Harris v. McRae, which established the constitutionality of restrictions on federal funding of abortion procedures. The court recognized that its decision seemed “callous and unfeeling,” but stuck to precedent in its decision.

The Justice Department described the restrictions on military coverage of abortions as designed to advance “the government’s interest in protecting human life in general and promoting respect for life,” reports the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Lisa Stone, executive director of the Northwest Women’s Resource Center, told the Post-Intelligencer that the application of this restriction in Jane Doe’s case, where there was no chance of life, “irrational, and I would say cruel.” No decision has been made on whether to appeal the case.

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Sources:

Kaiser Network 8/19/05; San Francisco Chronicle 8/19/05; Seattle Post-Intelligencer 8/19/05

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