The House Committee on Rules blocked an amendment from going to vote on Wednesday that would have allowed military rape victims to access abortion care through their government-provided health plans.
Earlier this week, Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.) and five other House Democrats submitted an amendment to the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act that would reverse the current policy of denying abortion coverage to military women who are raped and become pregnant during their service. As the bill currently stands, servicewomen have to pay out of pocket for an expensive abortion procedure unless they can prove that their lives are in danger.
By contrast, other federal bans on abortion coverage, including those for Medicaid recipients, federal employees, and women in federal prisons, all include exceptions for victims of rape and incest. The ban on abortion coverage for military rape victims is actually more extreme than the Hyde Amendment, which has prohibited federally-funded abortions for the past 30 years except in the cases of rape, incest and life endangerment.
"I think it's outrageous that we have young women who are serving our country and sacrificing their lives, and if they are raped and a pregnancy happens then they cannot utilize federal resources in order to have an abortion," Rep. Davis told HuffPost. "How can we tell a servicewoman that we would provide funding for her if she were sitting in a safe office in Washington, DC, but because she's fighting for our freedom in Afghanistan we tell her no? It's just not acceptable."
Instances of rape in the armed services are alarmingly common: The Pentagon reported more than 3,000 cases in FY 2009, and the Department of Defense estimates that reported incidents only account for a small fraction of the sexual assaults that actually occur.
Davis said it is unclear exactly why the House Committee on Rules, led by Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.), decided that the amendment did not deserve to be debated or get a vote.
"I think they just don't want this to come up," she told HuffPost, "so they used a rule to block it."
Dreier's office did not return calls for comment.
NARAL Pro-Choice America said it was outraged by the House leadership's ongoing campaign to limit women's access to abortion care.
"Apparently Speaker John Boehner and his allies believe that women who put their lives on the line for their country should face more obstacles than women stateside when it comes to making personal, private decisions," said Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL. "It is unconscionable."