Democrats Seek to Lift Ban on Abortions at U.S. Military Hospitals Abroad

Democrats are looking to repeal a longtime ban of abortions performed at U.S. military hospitals overseas.

Sen. Roland Burris, D-Ill., introduced the repeal as an amendment to the defense authorization bill, which passed the Senate Armed Services Committee on a 15-12 vote.

The amendment still has a long way to go. It threatens policy put in place by congressional Republicans during the Clinton administration that restricted abortions at military hospitals to only cases of rape, incest or if the woman's life is threatened.

Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., says military facilities, including all hospitals, should be places of healing and should protect life.

"We will stand firm and I welcome the fight…if they want to bring it. I do believe that there will be an overwhelming vote to keep our military hospitals as nurturing centers not abortion mills," Smith said.

But supporters say this is about giving female service members or military families the right to choose while serving overseas and insist the patients would pay for the procedure.

"It's only done on a voluntary basis by a doctor," Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said. "There's no requirement, in other words, that doctors in military hospitals perform the abortions, but it authorizes them that they are prepaid, no expense to the government."

That still doesn't satisfy Smith.

"When we hire abortionists, when we provide operation rooms and recovery rooms and nurses, all of whom would participate in the killing of that child and wounding of that mother by the way of abortion, that is facilitation, that is public funding," Smith said.

It is not clear if the votes will exist for this amendment this summer, since some Democrats are opponents of abortion and there was just a bruising fight over abortion in the battle for health care overhaul.

The Pentagon typically does not comment on pending legislation.