Expand Access to Contraception for Military Women and Families

February 3, 2015 | Birth Control, Reproductive Rights

All women deserve comprehensive birth control coverage and counseling. It should go without saying in 2015 that meaningful access to effective contraception and information helps us protect our health, care for our families and pursue our livelihoods. Simply put, contraception is basic health care for women, and contraceptive coverage is essential to women’s health and equality. And American servicewomen deserve access to the same health care benefits as the civilians they protect. Legislation introduced today by Senator Jeanne Shaheen and Rep. Jackie Speier would help bring equity to women serving our country in the armed forces and military families.

The Access to Contraception for Women Servicemembers and Dependents Act of 2015 would bring the military health insurance program’s contraceptive coverage policies in line with other employer-based insurance plans, requiring coverage of all FDA-approved methods of contraception without cost-sharing for all women who rely on the military for health care.

Under the Affordable Care Act’s birth control benefit, health plans must include contraceptive coverage without cost-sharing for civilian women; this benefit is long overdue for all military women and families.

The bill would require the Department of Defense to make contraceptive counseling available to all servicewomen. This counseling, available at various points in a servicewoman’s career, allows women to make educated decisions about the form of birth control that best suits their unique needs. For example, oral contraceptives may be burdensome to a woman frequently traveling between time zones, just as an adhesive patch may not be the best choice for a servicewoman being deployed to certain locations or climates. The bill also requires the Department of Defense to develop a uniform standard curriculum for family planning education programs for all servicemembers, and improved access to emergency contraception for survivors of sexual assault.

The Department of Defense provides health care to almost five million women, including active duty servicewomen in the armed forces and reserves, non-active duty women, and dependents. The Access to Contraception for Women Servicemembers and Dependents Act of 2015 is an important step forward for their health and well-being.

As the number of women serving in the military increases, meeting their reproductive health care needs is essential to ensuring military readiness and mission accomplishment. It is also a matter of basic fairness. Passage of this bill should be a high priority. We thank Senator Shaheen and Representative Speier for their leadership on this important issue, and all of their work to promote women’s health and rights.

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