(Washington, D.C.) – Both Houses of Congress have approved a provision introduced by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) that will repeal a policy in place since 1981 that denied women in the military coverage for abortion in cases of rape or incest. The Shaheen Amendment was included in the National Defense Authorization Act approved by the House of Representatives yesterday by a vote of 315-107 and by the Senate today in a vote of 81-14. The bill will now go to President Obama for his signature.
“After three decades of a policy that discriminated against women who put their lives on the line for us, I am so proud that we will finally begin to provide the coverage our servicewomen deserve,” Shaheen said. “We have heard from so many who have said the same thing: this is an issue of equity. Women in the military should have the same health coverage as the civilians they protect. I am glad that colleagues in both Houses of Congress and of both parties could come together to right this wrong.”
Currently there are more than 214,000 women serving in active duty in the military. Those who have been sexually assaulted, especially those posted overseas, have been forced to seek unsafe and unacceptable alternatives to a safe abortion due to the funding ban in current law.
The Shaheen Amendment enjoyed broad bipartisan support in Congress and received resounding endorsements from a coalition of military leaders and organizations. Among those who raised their voice in support of the provision were Colin Powell, USA (Ret.), the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the 65th United States Secretary of State, and Retired Army Major Military Generals Gale Pollock and Dennis Laich.
“This isn't about politics or ideology; it's about basic fairness and equity,” said Pollock. “The discriminatory policy preventing our women in uniform from receiving equal healthcare has gone on for too long and I am proud that Congress has finally acted to right this wrong. Our servicewomen are fortunate to have a champion like Senator Shaheen fighting on their behalf.”
“From the time I joined the Army in 1971, I was told that my principal job as an officer was to take care of my troops. We are a step closer to accomplishing that goal today,” Laich said. “Women serve with courage and distinction in every branch of our service. I applaud Senator Shaheen for her tireless work to making sure these women receive the support they deserve.”
Unlike most other federal health programs, Department of Defense rules did not have a funding exemption for abortion coverage in the case of rape or incest. The Shaheen amendment will put Department of Defense rules in line with other federal policies and help ensure that women in uniform receive coverage for the same health care services as most women who receive health care through the federal government.
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