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Abortion, News

AUL responds to Media Matters on Military Abortions

Today, Media Matters incorrectly asserted that Denise Burke, AUL Vice President of Legal Affairs, “falsely claim[ed]” that the Department of Defense Authorization bill provides taxpayer funding for elective abortions.

Below is a response to their arguments.

1.     Media Matters:  “[W]hile the Burris amendment would allow abortions to be performed in Defense Department facilities, patients would be responsible for covering the cost of the procedures.”

Media Matters, quoting Senator Burris:  “Amendment will allow ‘servicewomen and their families to elect to have on-base procedures at their own personal expense.’”

AUL: This argument has been made a number of ways – apologists for the Burris amendment argue that no taxpayer dollars will be expended to provide for elective abortions, servicewomen will pay “personal funds” for the procedure, or the payment of an “administrative fee” will be required for abortions.

However, it is doubtful that any “fee” will cover the military’s actual costs for providing the abortion.  Once you factor in the costs of a physician’s and other medical personnel’s time, the use of an operating suite and equipment, pre-surgical and post-surgical care, and, in some cases, transportation costs where a facility at a particular military installation (primarily, smaller installations with medical clinics as opposed to a fully-staffed hospital) is not staffed or able to provide the abortion, it is highly unlikely that any payment by a servicewoman for an abortion will cover all of the costs.

Further, one needs to factor in costs of training military physicians to perform abortions or, more likely, the costs of finding and paying civilian providers to perform abortions as more than 200 military physicians have already expressed their opposition to Burris and they are unlikely to agree to participate in abortions (and other providers will follow suit).

Abortion providers have testified in various lawsuits that the price for an abortion in the civilian sector is set lower than the “market will bear” to, in part, ensure access to abortion.  We should expect that abortion advocates will insist that the military do the same, putting the military in a position where it will not recoup the full costs of the abortion and instead the taxpayers will be subsidizing abortion in the military.

If the “fee” is set at the actual cost to the military of providing the abortion, abortion advocates will object that servicewomen – especially enlisted women whose salaries are lower – will not be able to afford the procedure.

2. Media Matters: “Contrary to Burke’s assertion, the Burris amendment removes the section of Title 10 of the U.S. Code that states, ‘No medical treatment facility or other facility of the Department of Defense may be used to perform an abortion except where the life of the mother would be endangered if the fetus were carried to term or in a case in which the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest.’ But it maintains the following section:  ‘Funds available to the Department of Defense may not be used to perform abortions except where the life of the mother would be endangered if the fetus were carried to term.’”

AUL: Ms. Burke never asserts that Title 10 USC 1093(a) is repealed by the Burris Amendment.  AUL’s assertion is that the repeal of 10 USC 1093(b) amounts to taxpayer funding for abortion.

3.     Media Matters, quoting the Stars and Stripes: “No military doctors would be required to perform abortions if they object to the practice.”

AUL: While the law protects the consciences of military doctors who do not want to participate in abortions, history tells us that if the Burris Amendment becomes law, taxpayer funds may be used to search for, hire, and transport new personnel to perform elective abortions.  From 1993 to 1996, when President Clinton allowed the procedure in military facilities, the administration had to seek out civilian physicians to perform abortions when all military physicians refused to perform or assist in elective abortions.

As mentioned above, more than 200 military physicians have already expressed their opposition to the Burris Amendment and they are unlikely to agree to participate in abortions.

4. Media Matters, quoting Senator Burris: “Currently, more than 100,000 service members and their dependents live on military bases overseas and rely on military hospitals for their health care . . . . It is critical that we provide the highest quality care for our service members while they are serving our nation overseas, and that includes allowing women and their families the right to choose at facilities operated under the Department of Defense” (emphasis added).

Media Matters, quoting Stars and Stripes:Under the amendment, female service members and military dependents stationed overseas would have access to abortions, provided they pay for the procedure themselves and medical personnel on base are willing to perform it” (emphasis added).

AUL: Media Matters’ discussion of abortion access overseas creates the misleading impression that the Burris Amendment only applies to military bases overseas.  In fact, the Burris Amendment applies to U.S. military bases as well. Unlike President Clinton’s 1993 Executive Order, the Burris Amendment applies equally to military facilities in the U.S. and those overseas.  Thus, the biggest impact of Burris will be felt right here at home.  This is a key point that is being lost in the debate.

Further, the second component of this argument – that servicewomen stationed overseas do not have access to abortions and military medical facilities must be used to correct this problem – is misleading as well.  Even a cursory review of overseas U.S. military installations reveals that abortion is generally and often readily available in countries where our servicewomen are stationed.  The only active military locations where abortion is not available or prohibitively difficult to access are forward-deployed areas, mainly in the Middle East, that are often involved in combat and contingency operations.  If they wish, women stationed in these locations may travel to other countries on military flights on a space-available basis to obtain elective abortions.