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COALITION ENDORSES SHAHEEN LEGISLATION TO EXPAND ACCESS TO CONTRACEPTION FOR MILITARY WOMEN, DEPENDENTS

July 30, 2014

(Washington, DC) – Today a coalition of women’s health advocates endorsed Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)’s legislation, the Access to Contraception for Women Servicemembers and Dependents Act of 2014, that would bring health care provided by the military in line with current law for civilian populations. The bill would ensure that all women who receive health care through the United States military have access to all FDA-approved contraception with no health insurance co-pay and also require the Department of Defense to develop and implement family planning counseling for all servicewoman at specific points during her service.

“This bill would ensure that confidential, comprehensive, and medically accurate family-planning counseling becomes a guaranteed health service for servicewomen, and is offered by medical providers that have the most up-to-date, evidenced-based information regarding the full range of contraceptive methods available,” the coalition wrote. “We believe it is the duty of our military to provide the highest quality health care to all servicemembers and military dependents, women included, and therefore strongly support the Access to Contraception for Women Servicemembers and Dependents Act of 2014.”

The full text of the endorsement is included below.


July 30, 2014

The Honorable Jeanne Shaheen

United States Senate

520 Hart Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Shaheen:

As organizations committed to protecting and improving women’s health and rights, we write in support of the Access to Contraception for Women Servicemembers and Dependents Act of 2014. This bill ensures that all servicemembers and their dependents who rely on the military for health care have comprehensive contraceptive coverage and family planning counseling.

Women play a vital role in the U.S. military and currently constitute 16 percent of all active duty and reserve members of the military. This bill would ensure that confidential, comprehensive, and medically accurate family-planning counseling becomes a guaranteed health service for servicewomen, and is offered by medical providers that have the most up-to-date, evidenced-based information regarding the full range of contraceptive methods available.

Ninety-seven percent of servicewomen are of reproductive age and studies suggest that servicemembers could benefit from receiving comprehensive family planning counseling. Additionally, servicewomen deployed overseas are often stationed in environments with unique challenges that require additional considerations in choosing the best contraception method. Meeting the needs of servicewomen’s reproductive-health care is critical to ensure military readiness and mission accomplishment.

Unintended pregnancy can be prevented through comprehensive education and family-planning counseling. This bill would guarantee that such counseling is available at various points in a servicewoman’s career, including during predeployment and deployment health-care visits, giving women the tools necessary to make informed decisions on whether, and when, to have a child.

Further, this bill requires TRICARE to offer insurance coverage of all FDA-approved methods of contraception with no cost-sharing. With this provision, the nearly 5 million women eligible for Department of Defense- based health insurance will have the same birth control coverage as federal employees and those who rely on private insurance coverage. Currently, active duty military have no cost-sharing for any prescriptions, although non-active duty military and dependents must pay cost-sharing for birth control acquired outside a Military Treatment Facility (MTF).

This bill would also make available at MTFs a range of FDA-approved contraceptive methods, providing a critical health service to the high number — 41 percent — of deployed servicewomen who have difficulty obtaining a refill for their ideal contraception method.

Finally, this bill improves servicewomen’s access to emergency contraception (EC) in two ways: first by codifying Department of Defense regulations that health-care providers at MTFs provide survivors of sexual assault with information regarding emergency contraception. Second, the bill requires MTFs to offer a sexual assault survivor EC upon her request.

We believe it is the duty of our military to provide the highest quality health care to all servicemembers and military dependents, women included, and therefore strongly support the Access to Contraception for Women Servicemembers and Dependents Act of 2014.

Thank you,

American Civil Liberties Union

Catholics for Choice

Center for Inquiry

Center for Reproductive Rights

Episcopal Women’s Caucus

Freedom From Religion Foundation

Freethought Society

General Board of Church & Society, The United Methodist Church

Hispanic American Freethinkers

Ibis Reproductive Health

Institute for Science and Human Values, Inc.

Jewish Council for Public Affairs

Jewish Women International

NARAL Pro-Choice America

National Abortion Federation

National Council of Jewish Women

National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association

National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health

National Organization for Women

National Partnership for Women & Families

National Women’s Health Network

National Women’s Law Center3

Physicians for Reproductive Health

Planned Parenthood Federation of America

Population Connection Action Fund

Population Institute

Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice

Reproductive Health Technologies Project

Service Women’s Action Network

Society for Humanistic Judaism

The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy

Union for Reform Judaism

Unitarian Universalist Association

Unitarian Universalist Women’s' Federation

Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual

Women of Reform Judaism

 

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