As combat operations in Iraq came to an end at the end of August, President Obama rightly lauded the patriotism and sacrifice of America’s servicemen and -women and their families. What he didn’t acknowledge, however, is that radical legislation being advanced by abortion advocates will require our military families to make unnecessary sacrifices and to pay an even higher price for their service.
Abortion advocates are agitating for the passage of the Burris Amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act. In direct contravention of President Obama’s promises, longstanding federal law, and the will of the American people, this amendment would allow military hospitals, military personnel, and taxpayer dollars to be used for elective abortions.
Equally disturbing are abortion advocates’ attempts to wrap themselves in the American flag by pretending to contend for the “constitutional rights” of America’s servicewomen. In fact, the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision simply stops federal and state governments from prohibiting abortion. It does not give American women — whether in the military or not — the right to have the federal government pay for, provide the facilities for, or otherwise facilitate the provision of abortions.
Furthermore, common sense and fiscal reality dictate that using military facilities, equipment, and personnel in the performance of abortions involves the expenditure of taxpayer dollars. Medical equipment and operating suites used in military medical facilities are paid for by American taxpayers, as are the salaries of the military and civilian providers who staff these facilities. The proposed payment of “personal funds” or an “administrative fee” by an individual servicewoman seeking an abortion at a military facility cannot alter this stubborn reality, though we don’t yet know what the fee will be.
Abortion advocates also argue that abortion is not routinely available to American servicewomen stationed overseas, and, therefore, that military facilities must be used to mitigate this purported lack of access. Even a cursory review reveals that abortion is legal and generally available in most countries with American bases, including the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, and even Turkey.
In truth, the only active military locations where abortion is not available or prohibitively difficult to access are forward-deployed locations, such as Afghanistan, Kuwait, or the United Arab Emirates, that are often home to combat and contingency operations. Are abortion advocates really arguing that military clinics at these critical locations should provide ready access to abortion as opposed to focusing on their primary mission of triaging and treating our wounded warriors? It would appear so.
A popular and wise saying maintains that “there is no such thing as a free lunch.” So, who will pay the tab if abortion advocates are successful in persuading Congress to adopt the Burris Amendment? Clearly, American taxpayers will, but military families will bear the brunt of the costs.
Unfortunately, like its civilian counterpart, military health care is becoming prohibitively expensive. Reflecting the concerns of many defense analysts that health-care costs are “bleeding the defense budget dry,” Secretary of Defense Robert Gates recently acknowledged that health care is not “a sacred cow” and will likely face budget cuts just like other elements of the defense budget.
Budget cuts to military health care will likely mean fewer providers, fewer services, fewer referrals to specialists, and fewer available appointments not only for members of the military but also for their families. In military health care, service members understandably have priority in receiving care. This means that military dependents, including the children of our nation’s warriors, will have to make do with reduced access to care.
This is the distressing reality facing our military families, even without the addition of the Burris Amendment. Clearly, the inclusion of elective abortion in military health care will only make matters worse. If military operating suites, equipment, and providers are being used for abortions, they cannot be made available to care for the routine and emergency medical needs of military families.
Americans have every confidence in the willingness of our military families to sacrifice for the good of our nation. However, they should not be asked to sacrifice for the benefit of abortion advocates’ self-serving and short-sighted agenda. They have sacrificed too much already.
– Former U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Denise Burke is vice president of legal affairs with Americans United for Life and a 14-year veteran of the U.S. military.