For the first time since 1981, women U.S. service members who are raped and become pregnant will not have to pay for their own abortions, if a measure passed by the Senate today goes into effect. According to Huffington Post, the Senate has passed Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)’s amendment to the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which guarantees certain rights to service personnel who are sexually assaulted in a 98 to 0 vote. If the U.S. House of Representatives follows suit with its version of the NDAA, the amendment will be ratified into law.
Shaheen told Huffington’s Laura Basset that the central issue here is one of fairness. Civilian employees of the federal government, Medicare and Medicaid recipients and even women in federal prisons have their health expenses, including abortion, covered by their insurance plans. Women serving in the military, however, are currently expected to fend for themselves.
“It’s simply unfair that we’ve singled out the women who are putting their lives on the line in the military,” she said. “We have young women who are starting out making $18,000 a year, and they just are not able to deal with this situation on the private side when it happens to them.”
Because the House’s version of the NDAA does not currently contain the amendment, a bipartisan conference committee will be tasked with deciding whether to include it. House Armed Services Committee ranking member Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) announced his support for the amendment on Wednesday morning.
“The women who serve to protect our nation should have the same access to health care services as ordinary citizens,” he said. “If a women in our Armed Services or a female family member is the victim of rape or incest, they should receive the full support of our military, and that includes providing for all of their health care needs. This is about equality, and protecting the health and well-being of our service women and our female family members.”
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
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