Military Service Women Remain UnprotectedPosted: May 26, 2011
Yesterday while over 400,000 women were protecting our country by serving in the military, the House Committee on Rules blocked an amendment to the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act proposed by Rep. Susan Davis (CA-53). The proposed amendment aimed to lift the current ban on abortion coverage for military women who are raped and become pregnant during their time of service. Based on a federal statute, military women lack comprehensive health insurance that covers abortion services. Women must pay out of pocket costs in addition to their insurance premiums. Blocking the amendment in a committee prevents a debate or vote from ever reaching the House floor.
This legislation would have allowed service women to enjoy health coverage comparable to that of other federal employees. Medicaid recipients, federal employees, and female inmates at federal prisons all receive abortion coverage in circumstances resulting from rape, incest or life endangerment. The current ban for women in the military is more extreme than the Hyde Amendment which also offers exceptions for cases of rape, incest and life endangerment.
Rep. Davis asked, “How can we tell a servicewoman that we would provide funding for her if she were sitting in a safe office in Washington, DC, but because she’s fighting for our freedom in Afghanistan we tell her no? It’s just not acceptable.”
Recent statistics support the need for fair and comprehensive coverage for service women, as sexual assault in the military in 2010 has increased by 11%, with a 16% increase in combat areas such as Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2010, 3,158 sexual assault cases were reported to the Department of Defense. The exact number is most likely larger based on the assumption cases went unreported.
In addition to the problem with inadequate coverage, military treatment facilities on base are prohibited from performing abortion services even if the women is able to privately pay for the procedure. The present morally discriminate restriction on service women’s access to comprehensive coverage increases the likelihood that women in need will have to seek services off base in foreign countries, which raises rates of complications as well as safety issues.
The House Committee on Rules has yet to produce an explanation as to why this amendment is undeserving of a full House debate and/ or vote.