The Washington Post

Rep. Slaughter introduces bill to allow abortions for service women at military hospitals

It’s hard to believe that a woman serving in the armed forces today — who may be risking her life in dangerous situations — cannot get an abortion at a military hospital unless the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.

Not even if she wants to spend her own money for the procedure.

That’s “absolutely wrong,” Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) told me in a phone interview Monday. She introduced legislation Thursday that would change that. The Military Access to Reproductive Care and Health (MARCH) for Military Women Act would lift the ban on abortions at military hospitals for service women.

Rep. Louise Slaughter supports lifting the ban on privately funded abortions for service women at overseas military hospitals.

No taxpayer dollars would be spent, she assured me. The service woman would be required to pay for the abortion.  And the “conscience clause” would remain in effect so that any military physician who did not want to perform the procedure would not be required to do so.

If passed by Congress, MARCH would lift the statutory ban that dates back to a time when men believed “women could not be trusted to make that decision, so we’ll just make it for them,” Slaughter, who’s co-chair of the House Pro-Choice Caucus, said.

Although an executive order by President Bill Clinton lifted the ban on privately funded abortions in 1993, two years later Congress passed legislation that only authorized abortions at overseas military facilities for U.S. service women in the case of rape or incest.

“Service women give the greatest sacrifice but are denied the same freedoms and liberties as their sisters enjoy,” Donna Crane, policy director for NARAL Pro Choice told me. “They’re actually denied their constitutional right to abortion.”

More than 200,000 women, including service members and the dependents of military personnel, rely on military hospitals for their health care. When service women cannot obtain abortions from military hospitals, they’re forced to seek out a provider in a country where conditions may not be sanitary and where the language may be a barrier, endangering their health, Slaughter pointed out.

It then becomes necessary to ask for leave from a commanding officer who may not be understanding of the situation, putting the woman’s military career at risk.

Last term Slaughter introduced a bill with a provision that allowed military women to receive insurance coverage for abortion due to rape or incest, which became known as the Shaheen Amendment and was passed as part of the National Defense Authorization Act of FY 13.

“The Pentagon knows we’re deadly serious,” Slaughter said. She cited a letter to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), from Elizabeth King, assistant secretary of defense for legislative affairs, stating that the Department of Defense supports MARCH.

She believes the odds are in favor of her bill being passed. “Chances are better than they would have been three or four years ago,” she said. “I think more attention is being paid to the abuse of women and to the second-class citizenship of women in the military.”

She’s determined to improve the situation in the military for women. “I’ve been trying to make it easier for women in the military since I was elected,” Slaughter told me.

“We’ve come a long way.”

Diana Reese is a freelance journalist in Overland Park, Kan. Follow her on Twitter at @dianareese.

Diana Reese is a journalist in Overland Park, Kan. Follow her on Twitter at @dianareese.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Comments
Show Comments
The Republicans debated Saturday night. The New Hampshire primary is Feb. 9. Get caught up on the race.
Highlights from Saturday's GOP debate
Except for an eminent domain attack from Bush, Trump largely avoided strikes from other candidates.

Christie went after Rubio for never having been a chief executive and for relying on talking points.

Carson tried to answer a question on Obamacare by lamenting that he hadn't been asked an earlier question about North Korea.
The GOP debate in 3 minutes
Listen
Play Video
Quoted
We have all donors in the audience. And the reason they're booing me? I don't want their money!
Donald Trump, after the debate crowd at St. Anselm's College booed him for telling Jeb Bush to be "quiet."
Listen
Play Video
New Hampshire polling averages
Donald Trump holds a commanding lead in the next state to vote, but Marco Rubio has recently seen a jump in his support, according to polls.
New Hampshire polling averages
A victory in New Hampshire revitalized Hillary Clinton's demoralized campaign in 2008. But this time, she's trailing Bernie Sanders, from neighboring Vermont. She's planning to head Sunday to Flint, Mich., where a cost-saving decision led to poisonous levels of lead in the water of the poor, heavily black, rust-belt city. 
55% 38%
Upcoming debates
Feb. 11: Democratic debate

on PBS, in Wisconsin

Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Feb. 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

Campaign 2016
State of the race

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.