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House of Representatives defeats effort to remove ban on military hospital abortions

WASHINGTON (BP)–The House of Representatives has rejected an attempt to remove the ban on most abortions in overseas U.S. military hospitals.

The House voted 233-194 against an amendment that would have permitted abortions for all reasons in medical facilities operated by the armed services in foreign countries. There are exceptions to the ban that permit abortions in cases in which the mother’s life is threatened and in which pregnancy results from rape or incest.

Thirty Democrats joined with 203 Republicans to defeat the amendment May 25. The representatives who voted for the measure consisted of 171 Democrats, 22 Republicans and an independent.

The vote kept intact a policy that has been in effect most of the time since 1988, when it was first instituted under President Reagan. President Clinton rescinded the rule quickly after he took office in 1993, but Congress restored it in 1996.

Rep. Susan Davis, D.-Calif., attempted to change the policy with an amendment to a Department of Defense authorization bill for next year.

In her floor speech, Davis said, “We trust women in the military to secure our safety. We ask women to put their lives at risk for our freedoms. So why is it that we do not support them when they require safe and legal medical services?”

Leading the opposition to the amendment, Rep. Jim Ryun, R.-Kan., said, “Allowing self-funded abortions would simply turn our military hospitals overseas into abortion clinics…. American taxpayers will be forced to pay for the use of military facilities, the procurement of additional equipment needed to perform abortions and the use of needed military personnel to perform these abortions.

“Military doctors signed up to save the lives of our dedicated servicemen and women, not to end the lives of babies,” he said.

The House gave final approval to the Defense authorization act in a 390-39 vote.

The bill passed with another amendment concerning the relationship between the DOD and the Boy Scouts of America. The House voted 413-16 for an amendment by Rep. Jo Ann Davis, R.-Va., that clarified the department could continue to provide support for the Boy Scouts and other youth organizations in the form of holding and hosting events on DOD property.

The amendment came after the DOD agreed last year in a partial settlement of a suit by the ACLU to inform its military bases they may not sponsor Boy Scouts troops. The department said troops are still permitted to meet on bases, however. The ACLU had accused DOD of violating the First Amendment’s ban on government establishment of religion because the Boy Scout oath includes a pledge to “do my duty to God and my country.”

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