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May 24, 2012

Shaheen Amendment Vote Scores Victory for Servicewomen

Senate Committee Adopts Amendment to Abortion Care for Survivors of Rape and Incest

Washington, D.C. – Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, applauded the Senate Armed Services Committee for adopting an amendment authored by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.). Shaheen’s amendment is part of the Department of Defense (DoD) FY ’13 authorzation bill that now moves to the full Senate.

“Today’s vote signifies a win for women in the military,” Keenan said. “It’s only common sense to protect and support those who selflessly serve our country. Women serving our country in the military overseas should have the same access to health care as women here at home, especially in tragic circumstances.”

Covering abortion for military women who are survivors of rape or incest would bring DoD’s policy in line with current Medicaid law, which provides federal funding for abortion services for low-income women in cases of rape or incest, in addition to life endangerment. The funding ban places an undue financial burden on female servicemembers and military dependents and may make some women reluctant to seek medical services or force them to delay seeking abortion care for several weeks.   

Retired military officials have joined a group called Stand Up for Servicewomen. A retired army captain who belongs to this group called the Shaheen amendment an important step forward for women serving their country.

“Servicewomen promise to support and defend the Constitution and our country,” said Cindy McNally, Chief Master Sergeant, US Air Force (Ret.). “It's unconscionable to turn our backs on them in their time of need. We owe it to them -- and to ourselves -- to get this one right.”

Keenan also noted that her organization is committed to ensuring that the policy is implemented fully and fairly, so that women receive this health-care benefit without unnecessary barriers.

Keenan adds, “It is unconscionable that politicians and other groups want to tell our servicewomen that they can’t exercise the very freedoms they signed up to defend—and that’s why I am supporting these changes to the defense bill.”

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