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Catholics Support Reproductive Healthcare Services for the Military

July 2, 2010

Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, issued the following statement about the US Senate Committee Amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that lifts the ban on access to abortion services for those served by military hospitals in the US and worldwide:

“This amendment is an important step towards ensuring that all Americans have access to the comprehensive healthcare services they need. Catholics believe that healthcare is a right, not a privilege. This right should not be denied to active duty members of the US military services, military service retirees and their dependents.

“The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is lobbying Members of the US Senate to oppose the legislation. The bishops may oppose abortion in all cases. However, the bishops’ principles do not reflect those of all Catholics.

“Catholics support healthcare policies that take care of the whole person, including his or her reproductive health. Catholics support policies that enable women to make decisions about whether to become pregnant, or whether to continue a pregnancy. Large majorities of Catholic voters support access to and coverage for abortions—either in private- or government-run health systems. Catholic support for family planning and abortion is grounded in the core principles of Catholicism, which respect the moral agency of all people and their right to follow their consciences on all matters, including those including related to sexuality and reproductive health.

“The Military Health Services System provides healthcare services to active and retired military personnel and their dependents, an eligible population of 8.9 million. Unlike the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholics do not think members of the military or their dependents should be barred from receiving the healthcare they need. The bishops’ attempt to block members of the military from having timely access to reproductive healthcare, including abortion, is unconscionable, especially since in many cases women may not have access to other healthcare facilities when they or their families are deployed.

“We, and Catholics around the country, disagree with the US bishops and their conservative allies, who seek to marginalize issues of reproductive health—as if people’s reproductive health can be separated from their overall health. All people, including the men and women serving our country through military service, need coverage for reproductive healthcare services, no matter where in the world that service might be delivered.

“There are 65 million American Catholics. Their views are not represented by the voices of the 258 active Catholic bishops in the United States. The US Senate, in passing the Department of Defense authorization bill with this amendment intact, will ensure women and men in the military, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, have access to comprehensive healthcare for themselves and their families.”