Skip to content


Amendment would give servicewomen the same healthcare access as the civilians they protect

(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Scott Brown (R-MA) today led a bipartisan group of members from both chambers of Congress in support of the Shaheen Amendment to allow the Department of Defense to cover the cost of abortions for servicewomen who are victims of rape or incest. Today’s letter urged the leaders of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees to retain the Shaheen Amendment as they negotiate the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The Shaheen Amendment is included in the version of the NDAA unanimously passed yesterday in the Senate, and is now pending final negotiation between House and Senate conferees. 

The letter was also signed by U.S. Senators Kristin Gillibrand (D-NY), Susan Collins (R-ME), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), as well as U.S. Representatives Susan Davis (D-CA, 53th District) and Chris Gibson (R-NY, 20th District). All are members of the Senate or the House Armed Services Committees.  

The Shaheen amendment would put Department of Defense rules in line with other federal policies and would help ensure that women in uniform receive the same reproductive rights as the civilians they protect. Unlike most other federal health programs, Department of Defense rules do not have an exemption for abortion coverage in the case of rape or incest. Shaheen also held a press conference with retired military generals today to emphasize the need to provide equal healthcare to the women serving our country.

The full text of the letter is below:

December 5, 2012

The Honorable Carl Levin                                                              The Honorable John McCain

Chairman                                                                                             Ranking Member

Senate Armed Services Committee                                         Senate Armed Services Committee

269 Russell Senate Office Building                                            241 Russell Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510                                                                   Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Buck McKeon                                                     The Honorable Adam Smith

Chairman                                                                                             Ranking Member

House Armed Services Committee                                          House Armed Services Committee

2184 Rayburn House Office Building                                        2402 Rayburn House Office Building

Washington, DC 20515                                                                   Washington, DC 20515

CC:         The Honorable Harry Reid, U.S. Senate Majority Leader

                The Honorable Mitch McConnell, U.S. Senate Minority Leader

                The Honorable John Boehner, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives

                The Honorable Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House of Representatives Minority Leader

Dear Chairmen and Ranking Members:

As work toward final agreement on the FY2013 National Defense Authorization Act continues, we urge you to retain Section 711 of the Senate bill, also known as the “Shaheen Amendment.”  This provision was approved on a bipartisan basis by the Senate Armed Services Committee and would finally end an inconsistent, discriminatory policy regarding health care for our female service members. 

As you know, women in our Armed Forces do not have access to the same critical and legal reproductive health care as the civilians they protect.  If a woman in the military is a victim of rape or incest, current law prohibits the Department of Defense from covering an abortion.  Conversely, women who receive health care under Medicaid, Medicare, the Indian Health Service, or through the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program, are all able to receive insurance coverage for an abortion if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. 

Women are volunteering to serve in our military at unprecedented levels.  They comprise roughly 15 percent of the 1.4 million members of our active military, with even more in our Guard and Reserves.  Moreover, the nature of modern conflict and the value of their capabilities have pushed women into greater roles on the battlefield than ever before.  Women are piloting combat aircraft, serving on submarines, and alongside our special operations forces.

The Department of Defense is making great strides to provide additional opportunities to women.  However, repealing this inequitable restriction on female service members’ health care can only be accomplished by Congressional action.

We thank you for your consideration of our request, as well as your continued service on behalf of our men and women in uniform and our nation.


______________________________                                _______________________________

Jeanne Shaheen                                                                              Scott P. Brown

United States Senator                                                                   United States Senator

______________________________                                _________________________________

Kirsten E. Gillibrand                                                                         Susan M. Collins

United States Senator                                                                   United States Senator

______________________________                                _________________________________

Richard Blumenthal                                                                         Kelly Ayotte

United States Senator                                                                   United States Senator

______________________________                                _________________________________

Susan A. Davis                                                                                   Chris Gibson

Member of Congress                                                                     Member of Congress