Commentary Abortion

The Shaheen Amendment Promises Basic Fairness for Servicewomen. Now Let’s Get a Vote!


Sen. Jeanne Shaheen took a historic stand for military women. Now it's our turn to stand with her.

By Sarah Lipton-Lubet, Policy Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office

This month, Senator Jeanne Shaheen took a historic stand for military women. Now it’s our turn to stand with her.

More than 400,000 women serve in the armed forces and put their lives at risk to preserve our rights and safeguard our freedom. Yet these women are denied access to the same care available to the civilians they protect. If you’re a woman putting your life on the line for your country in the U.S. military, your health insurance won’t cover abortion care even if you’re a victim of sexual assault.

Sen. Shaheen has put forward an amendment that would bring back basic fairness to military policy, and allow the military health system to cover abortion care in cases of rape and incest — just as the federal government does for all other federal employees, women enrolled in Medicaid, and women who use the Indian Health Service, among others. The Shaheen Amendment does one simple, yet powerful, thing: it stops singling out U.S. servicewomen and military families for inferior and unequal treatment. Every woman should have the health care coverage she needs, but at the very least our military women deserve the same access to care as all of the other women who get their health insurance through the federal government.

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But filing the amendment is just the first step. Now Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, need to make sure that the Senate moves forward. Our servicewomen fight every day for us — it’s time we fight for them.

The House leadership turned their backs on servicewomen last spring when they blocked a vote on this very same issue. Don’t let the Senate make the same mistake.

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