National Partnership for Women & Families

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From the desk of ... Marya Torrez

An Overdue Step in the Right Direction

January 3, 2013 | Reproductive Health

The National Partnership is proud to have been part of a coalition that worked tirelessly - and successfully - to repeal an unjust and discriminatory ban on abortion services for women serving our country in the armed forces.

The bill President Obama signed today took a small and long overdue step toward ensuring greater abortion access because, last week, the Senate and House agreed to provide insurance coverage for abortion for servicewomen and military dependents whose pregnancies result from rape or incest. This is very good news, and a tribute to the tenacity of Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) who has long championed this reform.

Senator Shaheen's amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act remedies a longstanding wrong by bringing reproductive health coverage for military women in line with coverage for other federal employees, women enrolled in Medicaid, and most other women who rely on the federal government for their health insurance. This was an important and necessary step for women serving our country in the armed forces.

But it is not enough. Coverage of abortion remains woefully inadequate for women enrolled in federal health plans. Since the Hyde Amendment was passed in 1976, Congress has prohibited women who rely on publicly-funded health insurance from getting coverage for abortion in most cases.

And women in the military still face particular obstacles to obtaining abortion services.

While servicewomen who are survivors of rape or incest will now have abortion services covered through their health plans, other women in the military who need abortion services are unable to obtain those services at military health facilities, even if they pay for it with their own money. This forces military women serving in countries where there is no access to safe or legal abortion services to compromise their health by delaying access to care. Even worse, it induces them to seek out illegal and often unsafe abortion care. President Obama and the Department of Defense support changing this outrageous policy, but so far, Congress has not acted.

All women need access to abortion coverage so that they can make the best possible decisions for themselves and their families. We commend Congress and President Obama for acting to bring equity to women serving our country in the armed forces. But it is just a small step; we must continue to fight until all women have insurance coverage that includes full coverage of reproductive health services, including abortion.


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