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December 17, 2009

NARAL Pro-Choice America Applauds Senator Franken for Introducing the Compassionate Care for Servicewomen Act

Washington, D.C. – Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, and Linnea House, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota, today praised Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) for introducing the Compassionate Care for Servicewomen Act in the Senate. This bipartisan bill would guarantee that servicewomen stationed overseas have timely access to emergency contraception (EC). Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) also signed on to be a lead sponsor of this critical bill.

The bill's introduction comes on the heels of Sen. Franken's successful effort to remove barriers to litigation for women who survived a rape or assault while working for military contractors. Rep. Michael Michaud (D-ME), a long-time leader on this issue, introduced the House version yesterday.

"This important bill ensures that women who serve our country will have access to a safe, effective back-up form of birth control," Keenan said. "Sen. Franken's bill is based on the principle of fairness: Women in the military serving overseas should be able to access EC the same way women stateside do. This is especially important, given the increase in reports of sexual assaults in the military. It's a tragedy that women in uniform are denied such basic health care. We applaud Sens. Franken and Snowe and Rep. Michaud for protecting the reproductive health of our brave servicewomen."

House from NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota praised Sen. Franken for focusing on changing a policy that will make a difference for women. "Minnesotans are proud to have a leader for women's reproductive health," House said. "We pledge to help Sen. Franken build even more support for this important, commonsense proposal. Women in the military deserve better than the current policy."

The Compassionate Care for Servicewomen Act would guarantee that the approximate 350,000 women in the military have access to EC, also known as the "morning-after" pill, on every overseas military base. Servicewomen and providers alike have reported that they cannot obtain the medication when they need it. A panel of medical experts at the Department of Defense approved this policy in 2002. But only weeks later then-President Bush's political appointees overruled the decision without explanation – yet another example of that administration placing politics and ideology ahead of women's health.

EC is a concentrated dose of ordinary birth-control pills that can dramatically reduce a woman's chance of becoming pregnant if taken soon after sex. EC does not cause abortion; rather it is a safe and effective way to prevent pregnancy. The Food and Drug Administration approved over-the-counter sales for adults in August 2006.

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