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Military Women Deserve Equal Medical Care

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August 26, 2011

This post is part of Mom’s Rising’s Blog Carnival on women’s health and economic rights, held this week to commemorate the anniversaries of the 1920 passage of the 19th Amendment and the 1963 March on Washington.

When Congress returns from their summer recess next month, you can expect it to tackle many of the urgent issues we’ve heard so much about in the news. Issues like the budget, patent reform and FAA legislation are sure to take center stage. Throughout the debates, and amendments and political posturing, there is an issue that you may not ever hear about: whether to eliminate a little-known ban on insurance coverage of abortion care for military women and dependents who are victims of rape and incest.

Under current federal law, the only case in which the Department of Defense can provide coverage for abortion is when the woman’s life is in danger. This military policy differs from other federal bans on abortion coverage in that there is no exception for rape and incest. As a result of this ban, our servicewomen are denied the same level of care as civilian women.

This ban is particularly galling because servicewomen are especially vulnerable to sexual assault. Reporting an assault is difficult enough, and should a woman become pregnant as a result of the assault, she should be able to obtain the same care available to other women who rely on the government for their health care needs.

Before the recess, a bill was introduced in the House and Senate that would reverse the ban – the MARCH (Military Access to Reproductive Care and Health) for Military Women Act (H.R. 2085 and S. 1214). We hope that the Senate, unlike the House, will give this issue the attention it so greatly deserves when it considers the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act in the next several weeks. Our elected officials must take action to ensure the health and safety of those women who have sacrificed the most for us.

Our servicewomen promise to support and defend the Constitution and our country. We should promise them, in return, fairness, equal treatment and compassion.

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