Bill Introduced in Senate to Repeal Discriminatory Abortion Bans for Military Women

WASHINGTON–(ENEWSPF)–June 16, 2011.  A bill was introduced today in the Senate that would end a ban on insurance coverage of abortion care for military women and dependents in cases of rape and incest and would repeal the ban on using private funds to obtain abortion care on military bases. The MARCH for Military Women Act (Military Access to Reproductive Care and Health), if passed, will bring the military’s health insurance policy in line with programs for civilian women who get their health insurance through the federal government.

The MARCH Act was introduced by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.). Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) introduced a companion bill in the House of Representatives earlier this month.

The United States provides health care and insurance for members of the armed forces and their families through the Department of Defense’s Military Health System. The department currently denies coverage for abortion care except when a pregnant woman’s life is endangered. Unlike the other federal bans on abortion coverage, the military ban provides no exception for cases of rape and incest, despite the fact that after joining the military, a woman’s risk of being sexually assaulted doubles and the likelihood that a woman will be assaulted more than once is particularly high.

In addition, current federal law bans servicewomen from using private funds to pay for abortion care in military hospitals except in very limited circumstances. This policy is particularly harmful to servicewomen stationed in countries that lack safe and legal abortion care facilities and forces servicewomen requesting leave of military duty to have an abortion to disclose private medical decisions to their superiors.

The following can be attributed to Laura W. Murphy, director of the American Civil Liberties Union Washington Legislative Office:

“Our servicewomen are an integral part of our armed forces and serve valiantly as the United States fights wars on two fronts, yet they are prevented from exercising their own reproductive freedom. They put their lives on the line, but we deny them insurance coverage even where they seek an abortion because of rape. The MARCH for Military Women Act is a vital piece of legislation which would be an important step toward restoring U.S. servicewomen’s equal access to reproductive health care and basic human dignity. We applaud members of the House and Senate for their leadership in bringing much-needed attention to this important issue.”