Senator Shaheen Champions Access to Reproductive Healthcare for Servicewomen
On Thursday morning, Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) hosted a press briefing to call attention to the Shaheen Amendment, which would repeal the ban on coverage for abortion care for military women and dependents who become pregnant as a result of rape or incest. The Amendment was voted into the National Defense Authorization Act of FY2013 (NDAA) by a bipartisan vote of 16-10 in the Senate Armed Services Committee. The NDAA is now headed to the full Senate for approval.
As a long-time fan of Senator Shaheen, I was thrilled at the opportunity to see her champion this important issue affecting our military women.
During the briefing, Senator Shaheen welcomed two high-ranking retired military officers who spoke about how under current law, military women who become pregnant as a result of rape or incest are denied coverage for abortion care.
Retired Army Major Gale Pollock spoke passionately about how the ban unfairly affects military women, noting that while we provide health insurance that covers such abortion care to federal employees, women in prison, and women enrolled in Medicaid, Congress denies that same coverage to our servicewomen. Retired Army Major General Dennis Laich also weighed in, calling the Shaheen Amendment “a matter of basic fairness.”
Both Major General Pollock and Major General Laich are members of the Stand with Servicewomen coalition, which includes more than 130 retired military officials who have spoken up in favor of the Shaheen Amendment.
For me, the real implications of the current ban truly hit home when Senator Shaheen recounted the traumatic experience of Jessica Kenyon, a servicewoman who became pregnant after she was raped by a fellow soldier while stationed in South Korea. Because of the ban, her military insurance would not cover abortion care, and she was unable to have a safe procedure off-base. Eventually she was discharged from the military as a result of the trauma of the rape, and she ended up suffering a miscarriage. As a civilian, I can’t help but be appalled by the thought of the double injustice that women like Jessica have been forced to endure while bravely serving the country.
The bipartisan support the Shaheen Amendment has received so far underscores Senator Shaheen’s apt description of the amendment: “Put simply, this is about equity. This is about doing the honorable thing for our women in uniform and treating them fairly.”
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