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Shaheen Introduces New Legislation to Protect Service Members’ Right to Reproductive Care

**Shaheen has led efforts in the Senate to codify access to contraception for service members and civilians and expand access to essential reproductive healthcare**  

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services committee, introduced an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to enshrine the right for service members to access protected leave for abortion care and services.  

The Shaheen amendment codifies the right for service members to access convalescent leave for purposes of abortion care and services and allows leave for service members who are caregivers for dependents seeking such reproductive care. Since the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade, 21 states have introduced total or partial abortion bans, limiting access to essential reproductive care for approximately 80,000 active-duty service women stationed in the continental United States.  

"It is unacceptable that service members now face limited or no access to abortion care, just because of where they are stationed as part of their service to our nation,” said Senator Shaheen. “As women across the United States face restricted access to essential healthcare, the reversal of Roe v. Wade has a particularly devastating impact on our military – it sends the message that our women in uniform are less valuable and their healthcare is less important. Nothing could be further from the truth. I’m proud to lead this amendment to strengthen our national security and get service members the healthcare they need and deserve.” 

The Shaheen amendment addresses the impact of the overturn of Roe on our service members by:   

  • Ensuring service members have guaranteed and timely access to non-chargeable convalescent leave to obtain abortion care and services; 
  • Standardizing the leave for such care to ensure service members have equitable leave access;  
  • Provides service members that have a dependent accessing abortion care and services guaranteed access to caregiver leave;  
  • Preserves service member privacy; and 
  • Prevents service members from incurring financial hardship associated with travel to access care them from suffering financial hardship as a result of their service to the nation. 

The amendment is cosponsored by Senators Markey (D-MA), Gillibrand (D-NY), Durbin (D-IL), Baldwin (D-WI), Menendez (D-NJ), Sanders (I-VT), King (I-ME), Schatz (D-HI), Blumenthal (D-CT), Heinrich (D-NM), Feinstein (D-CA), Hirono (D-HI), Wyden (D-OR), Hassan (D-NH), Cantwell (D-WA), Murphy (D-CT), Leahy (D-VT), Hickenlooper (D-CO), Warren (D-MA), Booker (D-NJ), Bennet (D-CO), Carper (D-DE) and Klobuchar (D-MN). 

The Shaheen amendment is supported by numerous veterans services and reproductive rights organizations, including the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), NARAL Pro-Choice America, VoteVets, the National Partnership for Women and Families, Protect Our Defenders and Operation Liberty. 

“The Supreme Court’s devastating decision to overturn Roe v. Wade has given states the green light to gut abortion access. It is critical that servicemembers - many of whom are forced to travel out of state for an abortion - are guaranteed leave to access that care. We thank Senator Shaheen for filing an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would guarantee this leave. All people, including members of our Armed Forces, should be able to control their own bodies, lives, and futures - without political interference.” - Leila Abolfazli, Director of Federal Reproductive Rights, National Women’s Law Center  

“The extreme Court decision to undo decades of precedent on the right to choose has left far too many service members in places where they cannot access care they need, simply because of where they’re based. In essence, this creates a number of second and third-class troops who are afforded fewer rights, only because of geography. Some troops will have broad access to care. Some may only be able to access it under certain exemptions. Some may not be able to access it at all. It is crucial that every pregnant service member be afforded the same right to care – including termination of pregnancy. This bill will go a long way towards ensuring that. We’re very proud to endorse it and applaud Senator Shaheen and her colleagues.” — Mary Kaszynski, Director of Government Relations, VoteVets 

“Given the unprecedented challenges posed by the outcome of Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization on our nation's service members, it is imperative that Congress take action to protect those who don't have a choice in where they are stationed to live. Protect Our Defenders applauds Senator Shaheen's actions to address this critical issue, particularly in light of the ever-growing crisis of rape in the military. Securing access to reproductive health services and allowing for the appropriate convalescent leave are critical to ensuring and supporting the safety and well-being of our service members.” — Don Christensen, President, Protect Our Defenders  

Senator Shaheen is an unrelenting advocate for women’s reproductive rights and has long prioritized access to comprehensive reproductive health care for service women. 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 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 with the overturning of Roe v. Wade, and 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 also penned an op-ed for the Union Leader underscoring the threats to women’s freedoms and rights in a post-Roe America. It can be read in full here