June 8, 2012 — Retired military officials joined Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) for a news conference on Thursday to support her amendment to the fiscal year 2012 National Defense Authorization Act that would permit abortion coverage for servicewomen in cases of rape or incest, NPR's "Shots" reports (Rovner, "Shots," NPR, 6/7). Current law allows abortion coverage for servicewomen only if their lives are in danger (Sands, "Hill Tube," The Hill, 6/7).
Abortion-rights supporters -- who have been fighting a barrage of attacks on reproductive rights in the House -- are hoping the amendment will survive negotiations on the Defense bill and become law. According to "Shots," the 60 Senate votes required to remove the amendment from the bill would be difficult to obtain. However, the House version is not expected to include similar language, meaning that the chambers would have to work out a compromise. If the Senate language remains in the final bill, it would put House opponents in the difficult position of deciding whether to vote down the entire Defense bill over the amendment.
At the news conference, Shaheen called for the provision to remain in the bill, saying it is a matter of equity. "Federal civilian employees, Medicaid recipients, even federal prison inmates are guaranteed affordable access to abortion in cases of rape," she said, adding, "But women in uniform are on their own."
Retired Maj. Gen. Gale Pollock, a former surgeon general for the army, also spoke in support of the amendment. She said that when a servicewoman "chooses to end a pregnancy caused by an act of violence, she should not have to scramble to find the funds she needs to pay for an abortion."
Retired Maj. Gen. Dennis Laich added, "Lifting this ban is not only a matter of basic fairness; it is also a matter of ensuring military readiness" ("Shots," NPR, 6/7).
ACLU, Military Advocacy Group Launch Ad Campaign
In related news, the American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday announced a partnership with the military advocacy group Stand With Servicewomen on a new advertising campaign to support the Shaheen amendment.
The ads, which feature veterans and retired service members speaking in support of abortion coverage for servicewomen who are victims of sexual violence, are set to air in the Washington, D.C., area this month ("Hill Tube," The Hill, 6/7).
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