U.S. Senate Unanimously Approves Abortion Amendment in Military Defense Spending Bill

The United States Senate has unanimously approved an amendment to its annual military defense spending bill that provides insurance coverage for abortions to women in the Armed Forces that have been raped.

The amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which was proposed by Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, passed last night with full support from Republicans, with the exception of  Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), who chose not to vote.

Current federal law prohibits insurance companies from covering the abortions of women in the military. Therefore, if women seek out such procedures, they must bear the expense themselves. Shaheen told reporters that she felt women should not have to pay to obtain an abortion in instances of rape.

“It’s simply unfair that we’ve singled out the women who are putting their lives on the line in the military,” she said. “We have young women who are starting out making $18,000 a year, and they just are not able to deal with this situation on the private side when it happens to them.”

Because the measure is not currently included in the House version of the NDAA, a special committee has been assigned to decide whether or not it should be inserted. According to the Huffington Post, “Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and ranking member Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) both support Shaheen’s amendment, and Shaheen said that House Armed Services Committee ranking member Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) has indicated that he would support it as well.”

However, should the amendment be presented to the House, it will likely face opposition from some Republican representatives, including Todd Akin of Missouri, an evangelical Christian, and Richard Mourdock of Indiana, a Roman Catholic. Both men were in the spotlight this year when they voiced their beliefs about abortion to the local media.

Akin came under criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike in August when he stated that he had been informed by medical professionals that a woman’s body has the capability to prevent pregnancy in the event of a “legitimate rape,” otherwise known as forcible rape.

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“It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare,” Akin told television station KTVI. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

He added that he believes that if a woman becomes pregnant from a sexual assault, the rapist should be punished instead of the baby.

“I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child,” he said.

Akin then received enormous pressure to resign, including from Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, but stayed in the race to the end.

His Democratic opponent Claire McCaskill won the election, however, 54 to 39.

Mourdock came under fire two months after the Akin controversy when he similarly divulged his belief that if a woman becomes pregnant from a rape situation, it was God’s will for the pregnancy to happen.

“I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God,” Mourdock said. “I think that even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

Mourdock outlined, however, that he supports abortion in cases where the mother’s life is at stake. Former Surgeon General C. Everett Coop said that in his 36 years of working in pediatrics he has never seen the need to abort a child in order to save the life of the mother.

“If toward the end of the pregnancy complications arise that threaten the mother’s health, the doctor will induce labor or perform a Caesarean section,” Koop explained. “His intention is to save the life of both the mother and the baby. The baby’s life is never willfully destroyed because the mother’s life is in danger.”

Mourdock was also edged out by his Democratic contender Joe Donnelly.

The NDAA, which now includes the abortion amendment, serves as the military’s annual budget bill to outline how much money will be allocated to the Armed Forces in the coming year and how it may be spent. In years past, other controversial amendments have also been included in the Act, some of which have passed and some which have not cleared the House or Senate floor.

In 2009, Congress inserted the Mathew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in the NDAA bill, increasing penalties for anyone that causes harm to another based on their “gender identity” or “sexual orientation.” It passed both the House and Senate through the efforts of Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, and was signed into law by Barack Obama in October 2009.

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