ACT NOW: Support Shaheen Amendment to Grant Reproductive Rights to Servicewomen

The Shaheen Amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act would allow the military's health insurance plan to cover abortion for servicewomen who are victims of rape or incest, thus bringing the military's health plan in line with other plans funded by the government for civilians.

Servicemen and women place themselves in constant danger to protect our freedom as Americans, yet the health insurance available to the women who defend our country leaves them with even less access to abortion services than is allotted to all other US citizens. The more than 400,000 women who serve in the Armed Forces receive their health insurance from the Department of Defense’s Military Health System. But unlike every other health insurance plan provided by the federal government, the health insurance available to servicewomen does NOT cover abortion services in the cases of rape or incest. Rather, servicewomen can only receive insurance coverage for abortion services if their lives are in danger.

We’ve written about this injustice before, but I still cannot wrap my mind around this state of affairs, which is particularly alarming based on the high rates of sexual assault in the military. According to the Department of Defense’s Fiscal Year 2010 numbers, 3,158 military sexual assaults were reported. That number alone is worthy of outrage, but it is even more disturbing in light of the knowledge that many women who have experienced sexual violence do not report the incident.

While we at the RAC believe that servicewomen should be permitted to use their own money for abortion services in any case, if they so choose, this conversation is not about politics or ideological debates. This is about fairness, equal treatment and compassion. It is about providing the women who risk their lives and make sacrifices on behalf of our country with the same access to care that we provide civilian women who also rely on the federal government for their health care. Moreover, our Jewish values affirm the rights of women to be moral decision makers, capable of making responsible choices about their reproductive health.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) is expected to offer an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2012 National Defense Authorization Act that would repeal the ban on the military’s insurance coverage for abortion services for survivors of rape or incest. The Shaheen Amendment would bring the Department of Defense’s Military Health System in line with other federal health insurance programs, to provide women with coverage for abortion services in the cases of rape, incest and when their lives are in danger.

Take action today: Urge your Senators to support the Shaheen Amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act.

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Defense.

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Katharine Nasielski

About Katharine Nasielski

Katharine Burd Nasielski is the Communications Associate at the RAC and was an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant from 2011-2012. She graduated in 2011 from Northwestern University and is originally from Philadelphia, PA where she is a member of Society Hill Synagogue.


  1. Servicewomen Deserve More :: Fresh Updates from RAC - September 27, 2012

    […] We’ve spoken about this harsh injustice before, and many of you have contacted your Members of Congress urging them to support the MARCH Act and the Shaheen Amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act. Today, I want to direct your attention to a recent op-ed in Politico, co-written by Lawrence Korb and Jessica Arons of Center for American Progress, which succinctly and powerfully lays out the inequalities that servicewomen and their dependents face in their health care options in contrast with other federal employees. […]

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