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May 25, 2011

The House Wages War on Military Women

Anti-Choice Lawmakers Refuse to Hold Vote Lifting Ban on Abortion Care for Military Women Who Are Survivors of Rape and Incest

Washington D.C. – Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, called anti-choice lawmakers’ refusal to lift the unjust ban that keeps military sexual-assault survivors from accessing abortion care a new low in the House leadership’s War on Women.

“The House leadership continues to wage an outrageous campaign that aims to make it more and more difficult for women to access abortion care, even if they are survivors of rape or incest,” Keenan said. “This extreme agenda also extends to military women who are survivors of sexual assault. Apparently Speaker John Boehner and his allies believe that women who put their lives on the line for their country should face more obstacles than women stateside when it comes to making personal, private decisions. It is unconscionable.”

Under current law, a servicewoman who survives the trauma of rape or incest is prohibited from using her military-health plan to pay for the cost of abortion care.  Instead, she is forced to pay for the entire procedure out of pocket.  This unjust law is more extreme than the restrictive Hyde amendment, which bars federal dollars from being used to pay for abortion care except in the case of rape, incest, or if a women’s life is in danger.

Reps. Susan Davis (D-Calif.), Rob Andrews (D-N.J.), Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.), and Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) filed an amendment to the FY’12 National Defense Authorization Act that would have lifted this unfair ban.  In an act of political cowardice, the House Rules Committee blocked this amendment from moving to a vote by the full House.

“Denying abortion care to military women who have had to endure the trauma of rape and incest is the House leadership’s idea of honoring service and sacrifice,” Keenan said.  “Women serving our country should never have to face the tragedy of sexual assault, but if they do, they should, at a minimum, be able to receive timely care and support.”

Instances of sexual assault in the military are alarmingly common.  The Pentagon reports more than 3,000 incidents of sexual assault in FY ‘09.  The Department of Defense estimates that reported incidents of sexual assault only account for 10-20 percent of cases of sexual assault.

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