Proponents Seek End to Ban on Abortion Coverage
WASHINGTON - Proponents of ending the ban on women in the military using their health insurance to pay for abortions in cases of rape and incest stepped up the political pressure on Wednesday, insisting that this year’s defense bill be used to finally lift the prohibition.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., chief sponsor of a provision in Senate legislation, and two retired Army officers described the current law preventing insurance coverage as morally and economically unfair to the more than 214,000 women serving in the U.S. military. They promised to lobby the chief House and Senate negotiators to end the ban.
The Senate passed its version of the defense bill on Tuesday and now must reconcile it with the House measure, which does not include the abortion provision. Three of the four top negotiators - Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash. - favor lifting the ban.
On the eve of negotiations, a bipartisan group of eight senators and House members sent a letter to Levin, McCain, Smith and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., urging them to lift the ban.
"The Department of Defense is making great strides to provide additional opportunities to women. However, repealing this inequitable restriction on female service members’ health care can only be accomplished by congressional action," the lawmakers wrote.
Among those signing the letter were Shaheen, Sens. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., Scott Brown, R-Mass., and Rep. Chris Gibson, R-N.Y., all members of the Armed Services panels.