News Abortion

Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown: Military Women Deserve Access To Abortion After Rape

Robin Marty

The Republican Senator is breaking from his party ranks to support allowing access to abortion for women in the military who have been victims of sexual assault.

Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown has always had a bit of a mixed record when it comes to women’s reproductive rights. The freshman senator was accused during his 2009 – 2010 race of not being “pro-life” enough to appeal to the rigid anti-choice groups who usually back candidates — something the groups decided to overlook in order to steal a senate seat from the Democrats.

Since his election, however, Brown has been mostly consistent in supporting his party’s opposition to reproductive autonomy. For example, he stood firmly with the GOP on the Blunt Amendment which would have allowed religious employers to refuse to cover contraception in their insurance plans, even when polls were showing that women in his state strongly disagreed with him.

But now Brown is stepping away from his party on abortion, at least when it comes to women in the military.

Whether or not military women should be allowed coverage of safe abortion care in cases of sexual assault has been a hotly contested issue in today’s radically anti-choice GOP.  Although the Hyde Amendment allows taxpayer-funding for abortions in the case of rape, that rule doesn’t appear to translate over to the military, where a soldier who becomes pregnant due to rape must pay out of pocket for a safe abortion. An amendment by New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen sought to change that fact, and Brown is now vocally supporting that move. “It’s a simple issue,” Brown said on the Senate floor. “Those who are serving in harm’s way who are victims of such horrific crimes should be afforded the same rights as citizens they protect.”

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It’s a different stance than the one Brown took in 2010, when Brown rejected the call to end the ban on elective abortions in military hospitals, which would let service women pay for abortions out of pocket as long as they used their own money. According to Political Correspondent Shira Shoenberg at MassLive, the difference is that allowing abortions after rape conforms with the Hyde amendment, where as elective abortions would not, even if the government wasn’t providing the funding.

“Opponents told the New York Times that they worried federal funds would be used to pay for abortions, since the abortions would take place at public facilities,” writes Shoenberg. “Proponents of the amendment said the full cost of the abortions would be paid for by private money.”

The idea that just the fact that the hospital itself is funded with taxpayer dollars means that the taxpayers are somehow “paying” for abortions is a stretch, but in an age when some nurses claim that simply walking past post-op patients equates to “participating in an abortion,” the misinformation regarding military women isn’t that shocking.

Still, that Brown is willing to advocate for providing military women the same abortion access as those who are not in the military but rely on government funding is a small step for reproductive rights, and should be commended all the same.

News Politics

NARAL President Tells Her Abortion Story at the Democratic National Convention

Ally Boguhn

Though reproductive rights and health have been discussed by both Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) while on the campaign trail, Democrats have come under fire for failing to ask about abortion care during the party’s debates.

Read more of our coverage of the Democratic National Convention here.

Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, told the story of her abortion on the stage of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) Wednesday evening in Philadelphia.

“Texas women are tough. We approach challenges with clear eyes and full hearts. To succeed in life, all we need are the tools, the trust, and the chance to chart our own path,” Hogue told the crowd on the third night of the party’s convention. “I was fortunate enough to have these things when I found out I was pregnant years ago. I wanted a family, but it was the wrong time.”

“I made the decision that was best for me — to have an abortion — and to get compassionate care at a clinic in my own community,” she continued. “Now, years later, my husband and I are parents to two incredible children.”

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Hogue noted that her experience is similar to those of women nationwide.

“About one in three American women have abortions by the age of 45, and the majority are mothers just trying to take care of the families they already have,” she said. “You see, it’s not as simple as bad girls get abortions and good girls have families. We are the same women at different times in our lives — each making decisions that are the best for us.”

As reported by Yahoo News, “Asked if she was the first to have spoken at a Democratic National Convention about having had an abortion for reasons other than a medical crisis, Hogue replied, ‘As far as I know.'”

Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards on Tuesday night was the first speaker at the DNC in Philadelphia to say the word “abortion” on stage, according to Vox’s Emily Crockett. 

Richards’ use of the word abortion was deliberate, and saying the word helps address the stigma that surrounds it, Planned Parenthood Action Fund’s Vice President of Communication Mary Alice Carter said in an interview with ThinkProgress. 

“When we talk about reproductive health, we talk about the full range of reproductive health, and that includes access to abortion. So we’re very deliberate in saying we stand up for a woman’s right to access an abortion,” Carter said.

“There is so much stigma around abortion and so many people that sit in shame and don’t talk about their abortion, and so it’s very important to have the head of Planned Parenthood say ‘abortion,’ it’s very important for any woman who’s had an abortion to say ‘abortion,’ and it’s important for us to start sharing those stories and start bringing it out of the shadows and recognizing that it’s a normal experience,” she added.

Though reproductive rights and health have been discussed by both Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) while on the campaign trail, Democrats have come under fire for failing to ask about abortion care during the party’s debates. In April, Clinton called out moderators for failing to ask “about a woman’s right to make her own decisions about reproductive health care” over the course of eight debates—though she did not use the term abortion in her condemnation.

News Politics

Tim Kaine Changes Position on Federal Funding for Abortion Care

Ally Boguhn

The Obama administration, however, has not signaled support for rolling back the Hyde Amendment's ban on federal funding for abortion care.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), the Democratic Party’s vice presidential candidate, has promised to stand with nominee Hillary Clinton in opposing the Hyde Amendment, a ban on federal funding for abortion care.

Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, told CNN’s State of the Union Sunday that Kaine “has said that he will stand with Secretary Clinton to defend a woman’s right to choose, to repeal the Hyde amendment,” according to the network’s transcript.

“Voters can be 100 percent confident that Tim Kaine is going to fight to protect a woman’s right to choose,” Mook said.

The commitment to opposing Hyde was “made privately,” Clinton spokesperson Jesse Ferguson later clarified to CNN’s Edward Mejia Davis.

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Kaine’s stated support for ending the federal ban on abortion funding is a reversal on the issue for the Virginia senator. Kaine this month told the Weekly Standard  that he had not “been informed” that this year’s Democratic Party platform included a call for repealing the Hyde Amendment. He said he has “traditionally been a supporter of the Hyde amendment.”

Repealing the Hyde Amendment has been an issue for Democrats on the campaign trail this election cycle. Speaking at a campaign rally in New Hampshire in January, Clinton denounced Hyde, noting that it made it “harder for low-income women to exercise their full rights.”

Clinton called the federal ban on abortion funding “hard to justify” when asked about it later that month at the Brown and Black Presidential Forum, adding that “the full range of reproductive health rights that women should have includes access to safe and legal abortion.”

Clinton’s campaign told Rewire during her 2008 run for president that she “does not support the Hyde amendment.”

The Democratic Party on Monday codified its commitment to opposing Hyde, as well as the Helms Amendment’s ban on foreign assistance funds being used for abortion care. 

The Obama administration, however, has not signaled support for rolling back Hyde’s ban on federal funding for abortion care.

When asked about whether the president supported the repeal of Hyde during the White House press briefing Tuesday, Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz said he did not “believe we have changed our position on the Hyde Amendment.”

When pushed by a reporter to address if the administration is “not necessarily on board” with the Democratic platform’s call to repeal Hyde, Schultz said that the administration has “a longstanding view on this and I don’t have any changes in our position to announce today.”