Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) spoke on the Senate floor on Nov. 30 about a provision in the National Defense Reauthorization Act (NDAA) that would allow women serving in the military to have coverage for abortion services in the case of rape or incest — which is currently covered in federal health care plans like Medicaid but not in military health care plans.
“It’s a provision that would provide for reproductive health parity for women in the military,” Shaheen said during her floor speech.
“I’m pleased, as I know we all our, about the growing recognition of the unprecedented contribution that our female service members are making to our national defense. There are over — there are 214,000 women serving in our armed forces. They make up over 14 percent of our total armed forces,” she said.
But, she argued, military women face discrimination when it comes to reproductive health care.
“In the United States, women receiving health care through Medicaid, Medicare, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, and the Indian Health Service — so all of the federal health care programs — all have access to the care they need if they face pregnancy resulting from rape or incest. Even women incarcerated in federal prison are protected in the case of rape. Yet right now, our women in the military are not granted the same access to abortion services in cases of rape or incest.”
That ban has been in place since the 1970s, although the specific terms have changed under different presidencies, according to the publication Women’s Health Issues.
Shaheen goes onto say that while federal money cannot be used for abortion services, exceptions are made in federal health care programs in the case of rape, incest, or the life of the mother. But the military is an exception.
The highest-ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.)., supports the provision.
“This is an issue of basic equality,” Shaheen argues.”Women serving in our armed forces should be able to access the same reproductive health services as the civilians they protect.”
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