House Fails to Reverse Ban on Abortion Coverage for Military Women Who Are Raped

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WASHINGTON – The House Committee on Rules today rejected an important amendment to the FY12 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 1540) that would have ended an unconscionable ban on insurance coverage of abortion care for military women and dependents in cases of rape and incest. The amendment was introduced by Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.), Robert D. Andrews (D-N.J.), Diane DeGette (D-Colo.), Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) and Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.).

The United States provides health insurance for members of the armed forces and their families through the Department of Defense’s Military Health System. By federal statute, the department is barred from covering abortion care except when a pregnant woman’s life is endangered. Unlike the other federal bans on abortion coverage, the military ban provides no exception for cases of rape and incest. 

More than 400,000 women currently serve in the armed forces in some capacity. After joining the military, a woman’s risk of being sexually assaulted doubles and the likelihood that a woman will be assaulted more than once is particularly high. A study from the American Journal of Industrial Medicine found that 37 percent of military rape victims experience multiple rapes and 14 percent experience gang rape.

The following can be attributed to Laura W. Murphy, director of the American Civil Liberties Union Washington Legislative Office:

“It is inexcusable that the House of Representatives would affirmatively choose to prevent debate and a vote on an amendment that would have benefited our women in uniform who become pregnant as a result of rape. The current military ban on abortion coverage in cases of rape and incest is cold-hearted and shameful and should be reversed.

“Our servicewomen are an integral part of our armed forces and serve valiantly even while they continue to experience sexual assault at shockingly high rates. Instead of taking the opportunity to act on behalf of our servicewomen and ensure that they can obtain the same reproductive care available to the civilian populations they protect, the House today chose to turn its back on them. Women who serve our country deserve more.”


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