Legislation that could repeal a federal ban on abortions overseas for women serving in the military passed today in the US Senate by a vote of 52-40. Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) introduced an amendment to a $393 billion defense-spending bill that would lift a ban on obtaining abortions at military facilities for US servicewomen and military dependents – even if they pay for the procedure with their own funds. In a statement on the Senate floor yesterday, Murray pointed out that 100,000 service women and dependents stationed overseas are denied a basic constitutional right enjoyed by women at home. Currently, these women must obtain approval from their commanding officers to travel back to the United States in order to undergo the procedure. While this ban was lifted by the Senate, the Republican-controlled House rejected a similar amendment in a 215-202 vote last month. The amendment will also have to go before President Bush as part of the defense-spending bill.
Congress voted to ban abortions at military facilities in 1988. President Clinton then lifted the ban in 1993, however, three years later, Congress acted again to overturn that decision in the 1996 defense appropriations bill. Exceptions to the ban include situations when the life of the woman is endangered – in which case the government will foot the bill for the procedure. The ban is also lifted in cases of rape or incest; however, the woman is required to pay herself.