On-base abortion option sought for rape victims

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Louise Slaughter said their bill, reintroduced Monday, would give women in the military the same rights as other federal employees.

The Defense Department reported 3,158 sexual assaults involving military personnel last year, according to the two lawmakers.

Current military policy requires women who want an abortion — regardless of the reason — to seek the procedure at an off-base medical facility at their own expense. Under the legislation, women in the military would still have to pay for the procedure.

In some countries — such as Afghanistan and Iraq — there are no off-base medical facilities and women must pay to travel to another country, according to Bethany Lesser, a spokeswoman for Gillibrand.

The 1976 Hyde Amendment bars the federal government from using taxpayer money to pay for abortions — or allowing abortions to be performed at federal facilities — but exceptions have been made for rape, incest and to save the life of the mother.

Those exceptions have not applied to the Defense Department’s budget, according to Victoria Dillon, a spokeswoman for Slaughter.

The legislation, the MARCH for Military Women Act (Military Access to Reproductive Care and Health), has been proposed in previous Congresses without being enacted.

Gillibrand is hoping to add the provision to the fiscal 2012 defense authorization bill, according to her spokeswoman.


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