Shaheen Helps Lead Senate Action to Protect the Right to Abortion for Service Members

June 09, 2022

(Washington, DC). — U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and a group of Senators led by Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced the MARCH for Service members Act in the Senate to protect the right to abortion for service members. This bicameral legislation would allow military medical treatment facilities (MTF) to provide abortion services and for the military to cover associated costs. Senators Blumenthal (D-CT) and Hirono (D-HI) also cosponsored the legislation.

“I’m proud to help lead this legislation to safeguard reproductive health care, including abortion services, for U.S. servicewomen. This bill is urgently needed as we face a likely reversal of Roe v. Wade, which would carry broad and serious implications for women around the country, including women in the military. Servicewomen are entrusted with safeguarding our liberty, including, if necessary, to lay down their lives for our country – what does it say about our values if we maintain that expectation while enforcing policies that strip women in uniform of their own personal freedoms and rights to make private health decisions? There is too much at stake – I urge leaders in Congress to work with us to move this legislation swiftly through Congress,” said Senator Shaheen.

“Our service members defend our freedom, but women in our armed services will lose freedom of autonomy over their own bodies if Roe is overturned. While states like New York will remain a safe haven for reproductive freedom, the reproductive rights of women serving at Fort Hood in Texas or other conservative states could be in jeopardy,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The MARCH for Service members Act would empower the Department of Defense to protect the constitutional right for service members to make decisions they need to safeguard their health. We need to honor our service members and provide women on the front lines with the health care services they deserve, no matter where they are stationed. That’s why, as chair of the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee, I am proud to introduce the MARCH Act and will fight for its passage.”

“It’s unconscionable that people serving our country and defending our freedoms are being denied their reproductive freedom. Everyone, regardless of their income, zip code, or occupation, should have access to abortion — including military service members,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “As some politicians continue to dismantle reproductive rights in states across the country, it is critical that Congress support our service members and their ability to access to sexual and reproductive health care no matter where they are stationed. Abortion is health care, plain and simple. We thank the leadership of the Pro-Choice Caucus and the Democratic Women’s Caucus for standing with our service members and advocating for abortion access for all.”

The MARCH Act is supported by numerous reproductive rights, women’s rights and military service member organizations, including Planned Parenthood Federation of America, National Women's Law Center, Center for Reproductive Rights, Power to Decide, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), Service Women’s Action Network, VoteVets, Physicians for Reproductive Health, NARAL Pro-Choice America and Minority Veterans of America. 

This bill is led in the House by Democratic Women’s Caucus Co-Chairs Congresswoman Jackie Speier (CA-14), Congresswoman Lois Frankel (FL-21), and Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence (MI-14), Vice Chairs Congresswomen Veronica Escobar (TX-16) and Sylvia Garcia (TX-29), Freshman Representative Sara Jacobs (CA-53), and Whip Nikema Williams (GA-05), as well as Pro-Choice Caucus Co-Chairs Congresswoman Diana DeGette (CO-01) and Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13), and Pro-Choice Caucus members Jason Crow (CO-06) and Marilyn Strickland (WA-01). They were joined by 71 of their congressional colleagues.

For full bill text, please click here.

Senator Shaheen is an unrelenting advocate for women’s reproductive rights and has long prioritized access to comprehensive reproductive health care for servicewomen. A senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, in 2013, Shaheen included an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which expanded access to abortion care for service women to bring the Department of Defense to parity with other Federal agencies. Shaheen recently held a press conference with the New Hampshire delegation and Planned Parenthood of Northern New England to discuss what’s at stake for women’s freedoms and reproductive health in New Hampshire if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wadeand she spoke on the Senate floor to urge lawmakers to vote in favor of legislation that would codify Roe. For years, Shaheen has fought to expand coverage of women’s preventative care, including through her legislation to reduce the cost of contraception for servicewomen and dependents in military families. In March, she joined HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra in Manchester for a meeting with New Hampshire family planning providers amid continued attacks from State and congressional Republicans. She recently penned an op-ed for the Union Leader underscoring the threats to women’s freedoms and rights if Roe is overturned. It can be read in full here.