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A group of Senate Democrats led by Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) are seeking to scrap the law that prohibits the use of Defense Department money to perform abortions.
US troops could see their access to abortion severely curtailed if the Supreme Court overturns the landmark ruling on reproductive rights this summer. Doctors on military bases, as employees of the federal government, are already banned from performing abortions so female troops—and troops’ wives—must seek the procedure on their own.
That would become much more difficult if the Supreme Court overturns the precedent set in its Roe v. Wade ruling almost five decades ago, as a leaked draft ruling indicates it’s likely to do. The ruling established the constitutional right to an abortion. At least 26 states probably would restrict abortion if Roe v. Wade is rolled back, including Texas, Florida, and other southern states that have many of the nation’s military bases.
“Our service members defend our freedom, but women in our armed services will lose freedom of autonomy over their own bodies if Roe is overturned,” Gillibrand, who leads the Senate Armed Services Personnel subcommittee, said in a statement.
Gillibrand on Thursday will introduce the Military Access to Reproductive Care and Health for Military Servicemembers Act, together with Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Richard Blumenthal(Conn.) and Mazie Hirono(Hawaii). The measure may face an uphill battle as it needs backing from all Democrats or support from a few Republicans if it is to make it into law through a narrowly divided Senate.
“The MARCH for Servicemembers Act would empower the Department of Defense to protect the constitutional right for service members to make decisions they need to safeguard their health,” Gillibrand said, adding that she “will fight for its passage.”
The measure matches a House bill, H.R. 7945, introduced by Jackie Speier (Calif.), who leads the House Armed Services Personnel subcommittee. That measure has 84 Democratic cosponsors.
The bicameral legislation would repeal section 1093 of Title 10 of the US Code, which states that funds available to the Department of Defense, or medical treatment facilities belonging to the department, can’t be used to perform an abortion except where the life of the woman would be endangered, or in cases of rape or incest.
The vast majority—95%—of all women serving in the military are of reproductive age, the Defense Department estimates. The Pentagon provides health care to more than 1.5 million women of reproductive age, including servicewomen on active duty, in the guard and reserves, as well their dependents. Without federal abortion-rights protections, female troops based in states restricting the procedure would have to seek their superiors’ approval for leave to travel if they elect to terminate a pregnancy.
To contact the reporter on this story: Roxana Tiron in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org