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(Washington, D.C.) – An amendment introduced by U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) to provide health care equity to women serving in the military was signed into law last night with President Barack Obama’s signature approving the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act. The Shaheen Amendment, which would provide servicewomen coverage for abortions if they are victims of rape or incest, was passed through both chambers of Congress last month with broad bipartisan support.

“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. “Civilian women who depend on the federal government for health insurance – whether they are postal workers or Medicaid recipients – have the right to access affordable abortion care if they are sexually assaulted. It is only fair that the thousands of brave women in uniform fighting to protect our freedoms are treated the same. I am glad that colleagues in both Houses of Congress and of both parties could come together to right this wrong.”

Unlike most other federal health programs, Department of Defense rules did not have a funding exemption for abortion care 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. 

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 care due to the funding ban in current law.

The Shaheen Amendment enjoyed strong 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.