This week, the Senate began its consideration of the FY2003 defense authorization bill (S. 2514). S. 2514 would authorize $393 billion in military spending for FY2003.
On June 21, the Senate adopted, 52-40, an amendment offered by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) that would allow U.S. servicewomen who are stationed abroad to use their own funds for abortion services at U.S. military bases overseas. Under current law, the Department of Defense covers abortions in domestic and military facilities only in cases where the life of the pregnant woman is endangered. In cases of rape and incest, women must prove that they have been the victim of rape or incest; then they may obtain abortion services with their own funds. Servicewomen who are seeking abortion services under other circumstances must pay for those services at a non-military facility.
The amendment would allow women to obtain privately funded abortions at overseas facilities only. Supporters of the amendment argue that women serving abroad do not have timely access to non-military care. Opponents counter that since military facilities are funded by U.S. taxpayers, federal funds would therefore be used for abortions. The House defeated a similar amendment, 215-202, on May 9 (see The Source, 5/10/02).
On June 24, the Senate will consider an amendment that would bar American military commanders from requiring U.S. servicewomen stationed in Saudi Arabia to wear the traditional abaya over their uniform or civilian clothes.
The Senate is expected to complete its work on S. 2514 next week.