Target: United States Congress
Goal: Thank Congress for lifting the ban on abortion coverage for rape victims in the armed forces.
A bipartisan conference committee of House and Senate members recently approved the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act, which will now include an amendment that will provide insurance coverage for women in the armed forces seeking an abortion after rape.
The amendment, introduced by Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), lifts a ban on abortion coverage for military rape victims. Women in the military have been struggling for decades, as their health plans do not cover many of the same treatments and services that civilians on government-issued insurance plans receive.
Under current law, the Department of Defense is allowed to only provide coverage for an abortion if the servicewoman’s life is in danger. There is no exemption for coverage if the women is a victim of rape or incest, and women who wish to terminate a pregnancy after being sexually assaulted are forced to pay for a costly abortion out-of-pocket.
The new law will hopefully bring more attention to the growing problem of sexual assault in the military. According to new research by the Department of Veterans Affairs, around half of women deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan reported being sexual harassed, and one-quarter said they were sexually assaulted.
The story of Army veteran Ayana Harrell is one that supporters of the amendment hope can be avoided in the future. In 2001, Harrell was drugged and gang-raped by fellow soldiers and Marines at a training base in Alabama. She reported the incident to her drill instructor, but he failed to assist her. When she then discovered she was pregnant, she made an appointment at a clinic to terminate the pregnancy, but had to back out when she learned of the financial cost of the abortion.
In pushing for the amendment, former Secretary of State Colin Powell said in a letter to policymakers, “At the very least, our military women deserve the same access to care as civilian women who rely on the federal government for their health care.”
Thank the members of Congress for passing this important piece of legislation.
Thank you for taking an important step in bringing attention to the growing problem of sexual assault in the military. Sexual assault in the military is often systemically covered up, excused, and ignored, and we cannot stand for it any longer.
One in three military women—compared with one in six civilian women—have been sexually assaulted. We should be ashamed that these brave women who already sacrifice so much, are at greater risk for rape when they decide to serve their country. We must stand up to sexism in the military and bring attention to rampant sexual assault, and this amendment is a good place to start.
Thank you for amending the NDAA to allow insurance coverage for abortion for military women. We hope that you will continue to work on protecting women in the military and continue to shed light on the crisis of sexual assault in our armed forces.
[Your Name Here]
photo credit: pixabay via user nemo