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Pentagon weighs in on military abortions proposal

From Barbara Starr
CNN Washington

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- If a Senate-passed measure expanding abortion rights for military women were to become law, the Pentagon would not resist compliance, a senior Defense Department official has told CNN.

"If the law changes, we will comply with the law," the official said Tuesday.

Friday, in a 52-40 vote, the Senate passed a measure lifting the ban on allowing overseas military hospitals to perform abortions funded privately.

The measure now goes to the House, where the Republican majority is considered to be less favorable, based on recent similar votes.

The proposal is attached to the budget bill funding the Defense Department, and the department official's comment appears to indicate that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld would not recommend that President Bush veto the bill if the new abortion language is included.

The ban was put in place in 1995 by Congress after the Clinton administration had lifted a ban on privately financed abortions two years earlier. Proposals to lift the ban have been voted on several times since then but they have failed because of the previous Republican majority in both the Senate and House.

The measure was offered on a bipartisan basis, as it has been in the past, by Sens. Patty Murray, D-Washington, and Olympia Snow, R-Maine. Proponents are contending that the current policy gives women serving overseas less access to abortions than women serving in the United States, or women in the private sector.

Under the current policy, a military woman serving overseas would either have to rely on abortion services provided in the country where she is living, or ask for permission of her commanding officer to travel back to the United States.

Exceptions are pregnancies that are the result of rape or incest, or those that present a risk to the mother's life.




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