FEBRUARY 08, 2010
Although it’s illegal to fund abortions with federal dollars, the Department of Defense will for the first time in history offer a controversial abortion pill at U.S. military bases worldwide.
Best known as the morning after pill, Plan B One-Step will soon become a standard part of every military medical facility’s drug stock, including those in crucial Middle East locations such as Iraq and Afghanistan. The decision to provide female enlistees with the “emergency contraception” was based on a recommendation by an independent advisory panel of military doctors and pharmacists known as the Pentagon’s Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee.
The committee’s recommendation was approved last week by the Pentagon’s acting assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, Allen Middleton. In November the panel received an anonymous request to consider adding the emergency abortion pill as a mandatory drug in Defense Department health facilities, according to minutes from its meeting. The order could have easily come from the Secretary of State, who as a New York senator, pushed hard to make the pill available without a prescription. Judicial Watch filed a public records lawsuit in the matter.
Many military hospitals across the country have carried the abortion medication since the Food and Drug Administration approved it in 2006, but the new recommendations will require all Pentagon health facilities to stock it as a “core formulary” which means hospital commanders don’t have the discretion to exclude it. The Department of Defense already offers contraception options such as condoms and birth control pills for all soldiers.
In accordance with federal law, military hospitals are forbidden from performing abortions. Since 1996 the U.S. government has banned (Hyde Amendment) the use of federal dollars to pay for abortions, though some states use local resources to fund the procedure. The federal ban applies to government health programs for the disabled and elderly (Medicare) and the poor (Medicaid). A separate provision, known as the Smith Amendment, prohibits federal funding of abortion under the federal employees’ health benefits plan.
The contentious abortion issue has already derailed controversial healthcare bills recently presented in Congress. The House legislation passed by a narrow margin only after an amendment was inserted banning federal funds for the procedure. The long-stalled Senate bill offers to levy a new “abortion premium” fee on Americans in the government-run plan.
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