First Reproductive Freedom Victory in 107th Congress, Senate Votes to Give Choice Back to Women in Uniform

June 21, 2002 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today called the first pro-choice victory in the 107th Congress a major step forward in guaranteeing full and comprehensive health care to women in the military.

“We are enthusiastic about this victory,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington National Office. “It is especially important now, given the current demands on our military, that women in uniform be afforded the same quality and comprehensiveness of health care as civilians, including access to safe abortions.”

The Senate today voted on an amendment that, were it to become law, would repeal the current ban on abortions at military facilities and allow full access to health services for women in uniform. The amendment was to the Senate’s 2003 Department of Defense Authorization Act and offered by Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Patty Murray (D-WA). It passed by a vote of 52-40.

Current federal law prohibits women from obtaining abortions on United States military bases, even if paid for out of their own pocket. For servicewomen overseas and their dependents this often poses grave health risks; many local facilities are inadequate or simply nonexistent.

Lt. Gen. Claudia J. Kennedy (retired), the only woman to ever reach the rank of three star general and who also served as Deputy Chief of Staff for Army Intelligence from 1997 to 2000, has urged the Senate to repeal the ban. In her letter urging support for the repeal legislation, Kennedy calls the ban on abortions in military facilities an “irrational and harmful barrier to the health and well being of our soldiers serving America.”

In its letter on the amendment, the ACLU also noted that the Department of Defense itself had sent a letter to Congress, dated May 7, 1999, saying that “it is unfair to female service members, particularly those assigned to overseas locations, to be denied their constitutional right to the full range of reproductive health care.”

The ACLU’s letter on the repeal legislation can be found at:

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