Today, Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) took a stand on behalf of U.S. military women and families when they introduced the Military Access to Reproductive Care and Health (MARCH) for Military Women Act. Earlier in the month, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) introduced a House companion bill, which already has been cosponsored by 44 representatives. The legislation would provide federal coverage for abortion care for military personnel and families in cases of rape or incest and allow privately-funded abortions to be performed at military treatment facilities.
Currently, U.S. servicewomen receive no federal coverage for abortion care in cases of rape or incest, unlike other federal programs that provide for such exception. Instead, they are forced to pay for care out of their own pockets after being raped. Servicewomen face further discrimination through federal law, as it prohibits military treatment facilities from providing abortion services to women, except in very limited circumstances, even when patients prepay the entire cost of the procedure with their own private funds. Servicewoman and military dependents may have no other alternative than to resort to local facilities in foreign countries that are substandard or unsafe, or be forced to carry their pregnancy to term. The existing military policy is unfair and unconscionable, especially given the fact that sexual assault in the armed services is at crisis levels.
Military women, who serve our country and protect our freedoms, deserve so much more of our compassion and regard for their health. We applaud these Senate leaders for introducing the MARCH for Military Women Act to restore comprehensive reproductive healthcare to the women who sacrifice so much.