Press Release on Preservation of Ban on Abortions in Military Hospitals Overseas

WASHINGTON—Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua hailed votes in the House and Senate to maintain the ban on elective abortions in military hospitals overseas.

"I commend both bodies for this action which is so important to the defense of human life," Cardinal Bevilacqua said.

On May 22 the Senate voted 51-48 to maintain the ban on elective abortions at military hospitals overseas, by defeating an amendment to the FY 2004 National Defense Authorization Act that would have compelled abortions on demand in such institutions. The U.S. House of Representatives also passed a defense authorization bill on May 22, defeating a similar amendment by a vote of 227 to 201.

The amendments were intended to strike from existing law a longstanding ban on the performance of abortions at military hospitals overseas. The existing ban contains exceptions for cases where the mother's life is endangered or where pregnancy occurred from rape or incest.

Cardinal Bevilacqua, Archbishop of Philadelphia, is Chairman of the Committee for Pro-Life Activities, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). He had written to both the Senate and House urging rejection of the amendments and retention of the current law.

In a letter to the Senate, Cardinal Bevilacqua said: "If the amendment is adopted, our nation's fine military hospitals around the world could be compelled to perform abortions on demand."

"Under the previous Administration the policy against abortions at military hospitals was lifted," the Cardinal continued. "Yet during that time of permissive abortion, the military was unable to find medical personnel in the armed services willing to perform abortions. This may be because men and women in the armed services are trained in the principles of the just war. They know that under no circumstances may they ever direct their attacks against the lives of non-combatants, especially against the lives of defenseless children. If the amendment becomes law, we would treat the unborn children of our own military personnel in ways we should not treat the children of our worst enemies."