Shaheen, Speier Lead Bicameral Comprehensive Women’s Health Bill to Ensure Quality Reproductive Care Services for American Servicewomen
**Shaheen & Speier reintroduce legislation to establish health care equity for military women and their dependents**
**The legislation would provide military women with increased access to all methods of contraception, increase family planning resources, and guarantee access to emergency contraception for sexual assault victims**
(Washington, DC) – Yesterday, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) re-introduced the Access to Contraception for Women Servicemembers and Dependents Act to overhaul current Department of Defense (DoD) policy on contraceptive coverage and family planning counseling. The bill would bring health care provided by the military in line with current law for civilian populations by ensuring that all women who receive health care through the United States military have access to all forms of Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved contraception with no health insurance co-pay. Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
“Current Department of Defense policy fails to address the full scope of women’s reproductive health care needs – that’s unacceptable. Our servicewomen should be entitled to comprehensive, affordable health care and that’s precisely what this legislation would deliver,” said Shaheen. “Women serving in the military and dependents of servicemembers deserve the same access to contraception and family planning services as their civilian counterparts, and it’s long past time that Congress take action and right this wrong.”
“It’s un-American and unpatriotic to saddle servicemembers with fewer health care rights than those granted to our civilian population under the ACA. Access to basic health care services, including contraception and family planning services, is also a critical component for troop readiness and a matter of national security,” Rep. Speier said. “Ensuring our servicemembers and their dependents receive the same health care services as civilians is the least we can do for these brave individuals who put their lives on the line in defense of our country and freedoms.”
The Department of Defense provides health care to over 1.5 million women of reproductive age, including servicewomen on active duty, in the guard or reserves, and their dependents. Studies have shown that women in the military have a higher rate of unplanned pregnancy (50 percent higher) than the general population. The studies have also shown that servicewomen face unique challenges accessing their preferred method of contraception and family planning counselling, especially when deployed. Additionally, although the Women’s Health Amendment to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) guarantees civilian women coverage of women’s health preventive services, without cost sharing, this policy does not apply to many servicewomen and dependents covered through military health insurance (TRICARE).
The bill has been endorsed by numerous organizations, including: the American Civil Liberties Union, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Catholics for Choice, Center for Reproductive Rights, Guttmacher Institute, Jacobs Institute of Women's Health, MomsRising, NARAL Pro-Choice America, National Council of Jewish Women, National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, National Health Law Program, National Institute for Reproductive Health (NIRH), National Network of Abortion Funds, National Organization for Women, National Partnership for Women & Families, National Women's Health Network, National Women's Law Center, Not Without Black Women, People For the American Way, Physicians for Reproductive Health, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Population Connection Action Fund, Power to Decide, Service Women’s Action Network, Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) and URGE: Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity. A letter of support for the legislation on behalf of the organizations can be read here.
Shaheen’s Access to Contraception for Women Service Members and Dependents Act would:
- Require that all women who receive health care through the military are treated the same as civilian women, and have access to all forms of FDA-approved contraception and family planning counselling services with no health insurance co-pay;
- Require the Department of Defense to develop a comprehensive family planning education program for all servicemembers, ensuring that military families have the information necessary to make informed family planning decisions; and
- Enhance access to emergency contraception for survivors of military sexual assault.
Shaheen first introduced this legislation in the 113th Congress, again in the 115th, and the policy has received strong support from women’s health advocates. Shaheen’s bill is co-sponsored by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chris Coons (D-DE), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tim Kaine (VA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Ed Markey (D-MA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Gary Peters (D-MI), Jack Reed (D-RI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), John Tester (D-MT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).
Text of the legislation can be read in full here.