Military Abortion Policy


Background: Current law governing abortion in the military has two restrictions: one on the use of funds, the other on the use of facilities (10 USC 1093). Funds may not be used to pay for abortions, except to save the life of the mother. Facilities may not be used to perform abortions, except to save the life of the mother and in cases of rape or incest. The prohibition on the use of facilities became part of the U.S. Code in 1996. From 1996 to 2006, attempts have been made every year in the House to repeal this law. All these attempts have failed.

House: On March 20, 2007, Rep. Ike Skelton (D-MO) introduced the Fiscal Year 2008 Defense Authorization Bill (H.R. 1585). Rep. Skelton is Chairman of the Committee on Armed Services.

Committee: On May 11, 2007, H.R. 1585 was reported out of the committee; all pro-life policies were intact.

However, on May 15, 2007, the House Rules Committee approved the rule (H.Res. 403) to govern floor debate on H.R. 1585. Fifty amendments were approved for consideration, including Amendment No. 43 sponsored by Rep. Michael Michaud (D-ME) requiring that “emergency contraception” – the morning-after pill – be made available at all military health care treatment facilities.

The Michaud Amendment provided that “Emergency contraception shall be included in the basic core formulary of the uniform formulary,” defining “emergency contraception” as “a drug, drug regimen, or device that is –  (I) approved by the Food and Drug Administration to prevent pregnancy; and (ii) used postcoitally.” The Basic Core Formulary consists of those drugs that all military health care facilities are required to provide. Currently, military pharmacies may choose to stock the morning-after-pill and about 50% do. However, the Michaud Amendment would mandate its availability. The amendment contained no conscience protection for military medical personnel and no requirement for parental notification.

Reps. Tim Ryan (D-OH), Jane Harman (D-CA), Christopher Shays (R-CT), Susan Davis (D-CA) and Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) were co-sponsors of the Michaud Amendment.

Efforts in the Rules Committee to amend the Michaud Amendment were not successful.

By the vote 4-yes, 9-no, the Rules Committee refused to make two amendments in order: an amendment by Reps. Todd Akins (R-MO) and Phil Gingrey (R-GA) to offer a second-degree amendment to the Michaud Amendment regarding unemancipated minors and an amendment by Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) to allow amendments to the Michaud Amendment on the House floor.

Floor: On May 16, 2007, the House began consideration of H.R. 1585. It was anticipated that the House would debate the Michaud Amendment on May 16 and vote on the amendment on May 17. However, before the debate began, Rep. Michaud withdrew his amendment.

On May 17, 2007, the House approved H.R. 1585; the Michaud Amendment was not part of the bill.

On May 16, 2007, prior to floor consideration of H.R. 1585, the White House issued a Statement of Policy on H.R. 1585, in which the Administration expressed its disappointment that “the Rules Committee did not accept an amendment for consideration that would have provided appropriate conscience protection to medical personnel affected by changes in the DOD formulary.”

On May 16, 2007, Archbishop Edwin O’Brien, head of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, sent a letter to House Members urging opposition to the Michaud Amendment. Military health care personnel “should not be compelled” to administer drugs that “may have the effect of interfering with the implantation of an already conceived human embryo.” The Archbishop stated, “Military hospitals have an outstanding record of saving life, even in the most challenging times and conditions. Their commitment extends to the smallest of human beings. Please allow them to continue abiding by these values.”

At year’s end, the military abortion policy was unchanged.