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June 6, 2011

Pro-Choice Champions Fight to Reverse Unjust Ban on Military Women

Sen. Gillibrand, Rep. Slaughter introduce legislation 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, applauded Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) for sponsoring the MARCH Act, legislation that would overturn an unjust ban preventing military sexual-assault survivors from accessing abortion care.

Rep. Slaughter introduced the bill today, and Sen. Gillibrand will introduce the companion bill in the coming weeks.

“We applaud Sen. Gillibrand, Rep. Slaughter and other leaders for fighting back against the anti-choice politicians outrageous campaign to block rape and incest survivors from accessing abortion care,” said Keenan, referring to recent moves by the House leadership to spur the Internal Revenue Service to audit rape and incest survivors and refusing to hold a vote on a measure to help military women. “This bill will force anti-choice lawmakers to go on the record as to whether they 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.”

The MARCH Act would overturn current law that bars a servicewoman who survives the trauma of rape or incest from using her military-health plan to pay for the cost of abortion care. 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.

The legislation would also lift the ban that forbids doctors at military hospitals from providing abortion care, even if a woman pays for it herself.

Recently, Reps. Susan Davis (D-Calif.), Robert Andrews (D-N.J.), Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.), and Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) recently filed an amendment to filed an amendment to the FY’12 National Defense Authorization Act that would have allowed military health plans to cover abortion care for sexual-assault survivors. In an act of political cowardice, the House Rules Committee blocked this amendment from moving to a vote by the full House.

“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,” Keenan said. “Congress owes it to the women who put their lives on the line everyday to end this injustice.”

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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