Washington, D.C. — Today Congress approved the National Defense Authorization Act, which includes the Shaheen Amendment, a provision that requires the military’s health insurance program TRICARE to cover abortion for servicewomen and military dependents when a pregnancy results from rape or incest. Experts from the Center for American Progress released the following statements:
Lawrence J. Korb, Senior Fellow at American Progress:
I was honored to join with General Colin Powell and other retired military officers to make it possible for women in the military and military dependents to finally have the same coverage for abortion as other federal employees.
Jessica Arons, Director of the Women’s Health and Rights program at American Progress:
The Shaheen Amendment is the least our military women deserve. We hope this is the first step toward gaining full coverage for all of their reproductive health needs so that one day they will enjoy all of the rights they so bravely defend.
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Background information on the Shaheen Amendment:
There were 3,158 reported sexual assaults in the military in 2010, including around 875 reported rapes. Because under-reporting is rampant, however, the number of actual rapes was likely closer to 6,250. Based on the rate at which first-time unprotected sexual intercourse results in pregnancy, we estimate that at least 300 military rapes resulted in pregnancy in 2010. In addition, more than half of military sexual assault survivors are between the ages of 20 and 24 and are likely earning less than $23,000 per year, meaning those who are most likely to need to end a pregnancy that resulted from rape are also the least able to afford it.
The Shaheen Amendment would bring the military program in line with other government health programs and insurance plans for civilian women, which currently restrict abortion coverage to cases of life endangerment, rape, and incest. These restrictions on abortion coverage limit the affordability and availability of safe abortion services, impose unnecessary hardships on otherwise eligible women, and improperly attempt to coerce a woman’s decision of whether to end an unintended or medically compromised pregnancy.