Abortion rights advocates suddenly seem to have a chance to win a battle—but, surprisingly, it's part of the Defense bill debate. Last month New Hampshire Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen quietly added an amendment to the massive annual Department of Defense bill that would permit military health insurance to cover abortions for service women whose pregnancies resulted from rape or incest. Three Republican senators, including John McCain, voted for it. Currently, Shaheen noted at a press conference, "federal civilian employees, Medicaid recipients, even federal prison inmates are guaranteed affordable access to abortion in cases of rape. But women in uniform are on their own."
Retired Major General Dennis Laich pointed out that women make up almost 15% of the military, and that lifting the current insurance ban "is not only a matter of basic fairness, but a matter of ensuring military readiness." When "a servicewoman chooses to end a pregnancy caused by an act of violence, she should not have to scramble to find the funds she needs to pay for an abortion," said Major General Gale Pollock, former surgeon general for the Army. Because the amendment is already part of the bill, it will take 60 Senate votes to remove it, which is a daunting obstacle. If the language survives a compromise bill with the anti-abortion House, the amendment can only be killed if the entire Defense measure is tossed out, which is highly unlikely, notes NPR. (Read more Jeanne Shaheen stories.)