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Editorial: Wrong fight, wrong time

May. 9, 2013 - 12:28PM   |  
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Military force structure is being cut. Warships are tying up at their piers. Squadrons are standing down for the remainder of the year. Civilians face furloughs.

Yet as the Pentagon faces tens of billions in budget cuts, the most pressing military issue for some lawmakers is whether female troops should have access to abortions in military hospitals at their own expense.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, chair of the Senate Armed Services personnel subcommittee, and Rep. Louise Slaughter, both Democrats from New York, are sponsoring legislation that would reverse a 17-year-old ban on patient-funded abortions in military medical facilities.

This is a solution in search of a problem. When patient-funded abortions were permitted in military facilities in 1993 and 1994, a grand total of 37 abortions were performed. Today’s military is smaller, and there’s no indication that demand for abortions is any greater today — or that it’s gotten any harder to obtain one outside the base gates.

This is just an attempt to use the military as a political football. The bill is virtually assured of being blocked by the Republican-controlled House, but Gillibrand and Slaughter will be able to say they fought for abortion rights, and no one will care that they ignored the military’s bigger trouble in its time of need.

Abortions have long been permitted in military hospitals when the mother’s life is at stake, and since 2011, in cases of rape or incest. Abortions are readily available in the U.S., and overseas members can fly home space-available at minimal cost.

With so many more pressing military issues, lawmakers wasting time on this futile fight need to rethink their priorities.

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