House Blocks Votes on Amendments to Improve Military Women's Health

Anti-choice legislators deny improved health services for rape victims in the military, even as attacks against servicewomen rose 40 % since 2004

Washington, DC- Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, called it shameful that anti-choice congressional leaders blocked votes on two amendments to the Defense Authorization Act that would improve health services for military women – including those who are survivors of sexual violence.

The Rules Committee blocked the House from considering the two following amendments:

1) Reps. Mike Michaud (D-ME) and Tim Ryan (D-OH), both of whom oppose legal abortion, asked to offer an amendment to ensure that emergency contraception – also known as the “morning-after” pill – is stocked and made available on every military base. This medication, if taken within days of unprotected sex Ôø? including a sexual attack, can prevent pregnancy by up to 89 percent.

2) Reps. Chris Shays (R-CT) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) wanted to offer an amendment allowing federally funded abortion care for military women who are rape or incest survivors.

“It’s outrageous that the anti-choice House leadership would continue to deny lawmakers a chance to vote on these commonsense, common-ground proposals that would improve our servicewomen’s access to health care on military facilities. Women serving our country should never have to face the tragedy of a sexual assault, but if they do, they should Ôø? at a minimum Ôø? be able to receive timely care and support,” Keenan said. “Voters will remember that this anti-choice Congress caves in to the far-right at the expense of women’s health. The only way to secure better treatment for women in the military is ending the anti-choice groups’ grip on Congress.”

This is the second consecutive year that the House Rules Committee denied their fellow lawmakers the opportunity to consider these two amendments, despite the alarming statistics of sexual assault in the military.

Last year, there were 2,374 reported cases of sexual assault among servicemembers Ôø? a 40 percent increase from 2004. In the Army alone, the number of reported rape cases rose from 356 in 1999 to 469 in 2003.

The committee agreed to allow an amendment by Reps. Susan Davis (D-CA) and Jane Harman (D-CA) to repeal the current-law ban that forbids servicewomen and female military dependents from using their own funds for abortion care at overseas military hospitals. NARAL Pro-Choice America strongly supported the Davis-Harman amendment, which failed yesterday by a vote of 191 to 237.

May 10, 2006
House Denies Health Care Service to Military Women

Davis-Harman amendment would have lifted ban that forbids servicewomen and military spouses from using personal funds for abortion care

Washington, DC- Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said the House’s refusal to repeal a discriminatory ban that prevents military women overseas from using their own money to pay for abortion care violates the core American principles of freedom and personal responsibility. The House rejected the amendment by a vote of 191-237.

Reps. Susan Davis and Jane Harman (both D-CA) offered the amendment to the Defense Authorization bill. It would have repealed the current ban that forbids servicewomen and female military dependents from using their own funds for abortion care at overseas military hospitals.

“For the 12th consecutive year, anti-choice members have bowed to the political pressure of their extremist supporters in the anti-choice movement. It is a disgrace that Congress continues to deny women, who are making such enormous sacrifices in defense of their country overseas, their constitutional right to choose,” said Keenan. “I applaud Representatives Davis and Harman for their unwavering support of our servicewomen overseas. We will stand with them until Congress acts to improve military women’s health care and adopts policies that reflect our pro-choice values of freedom and responsibility for all women.”

Below is more information on the Davis-Harman amendment:

Ending geographic discrimination. Under current law, women who have volunteered to serve their country, and female military dependents, are discriminated against and cannot exercise their legally guaranteed right to choose, simply because they are stationed overseas.
Lifting the ban on privately funded health services. If the Davis-Harman amendment were enacted into law, the Department of Defense would not be required to pay for abortions – it would simply lift the current ban on privately funded abortion care at U.S. military facilities overseas.
Equalizing services for military women. Military women should be able to depend on their base hospitals for all their health-care services. Repealing the current-law ban on privately funded abortion services would have allowed women access to the same range and quality of medical care available in the United States.
Preserving personal refusal clause. If the ban is lifted, no medical providers would be forced to provide abortions. All branches of the military have provisions that permit medical personnel who have personal objections to abortion not to participate in the procedure. These provisions will be preserved if the ban is lifted.


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About Jay Babcock

I am an independent writer and editor based in Tucson, Arizona. In 2022: I publish a weeklyish email newsletter called LANDLINE = Previously: I co-founded and edited Arthur Magazine (2002-2008, 2012-13) and curated the three Arthur music festival events (Arthurfest, ArthurBall, and Arthur Nights) (2005-6). Prior to that I was a district office staffer for Congressman Henry A. Waxman, a DJ at Silver Lake pirate radio station KBLT, a copy editor at Larry Flynt Publications, an editor at Mean magazine, and a freelance journalist contributing work to LAWeekly, Mojo, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Vibe, Rap Pages, Grand Royal and many other print and online outlets. An extended piece I wrote on Fela Kuti was selected for the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 anthology. In 2006, I was somehow listed in the Music section of Los Angeles Magazine's annual "Power" issue. In 2007-8, I produced a blog called "Nature Trumps," about the L.A. River. From 2010 to 2021, I lived in rural wilderness in Joshua Tree, Ca., where I practiced with Buddhist teacher Ruth Denison and was involved in various pro-ecology and social justice activist activities.

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