The amendment, offered by Senator Roland Burris (D-IL), would reverse a ban on almost all abortion services at U.S. military hospitals and medical facilities.
The ban, which applies even if a woman pays for the procedure with her own private funds and in cases where a woman’s health is at risk, was first put into place in 1988 with an internal Department of Defense memorandum. In 1993, President Bill Clinton reversed the policy by executive order but Congress intervened two years later to codify and reinstate the ban.
Even in countries where abortion is legal, in practice, servicewomen frequently do not have access to abortions for a number of reasons, including lack of adequate local health facilities, lack of trained medical personnel, or being stationed in remote or hostile areas. Additionally, servicewomen who are forced by the ban to seek proper medical care at civilian facilities are required to request a leave of military duty, which can only be granted after they disclose their private medical decisions to their superiors.
The following can be attributed to Vania Leveille, ACLU Legislative Counsel:
“There are hundreds of thousands of women serving in our military who put their lives on the line to protect our freedoms yet they are prevented from exercising their own reproductive freedom. Servicewomen stationed overseas are disproportionately affected by this ban. Allowing American servicewomen to use their own private funds to obtain abortion care at U.S. military facilities is fundamental and should never have been questioned in the first place. Senator Burris’ leadership was crucial to this victory and we are grateful to members of the Senate Armed Services Committee for voting to repeal this unjust and unfair policy."