Source: Mother Jones
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) wants to expand access to abortion for servicewomen who are raped. Only a few Republicans are willing to help.
Republican Senators John McCain, Scott Brown, and Susan Collins all support an effort by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat from New Hampshire, to expand abortion access for military women who are raped. But despite bipartisan support in the Senate, Shaheen's proposal may not make it into the final version of the 2013 defense authorization bill—because House Republicans oppose it.
If Shaheen's measure passes, military families will finally have the same access to abortion that other federal employees already receive. Unlike the rest of the federal government, the Department of Defense currently only provides abortion coverage if the life of the mother is at stake. Under current law, if a State Department employee is raped, her government health insurance plan will pay for an abortion if she wants one. But if an Army medic serving in Afghanistan is raped and becomes pregnant, she can't use her military health plan to pay for an abortion. If she does decide to get an abortion, she will have to pay for it with her own money. And if she can't prove she was raped—which is difficult before an investigation is completed—she may have to look for services off base, which can be dangerous or impossible in many parts of the world.
"We have more than 200,000 women serving on active duty in our military," Shaheen tellsMother Jones. "They should have the same rights to affordable reproductive health services as all of the civilians who they protect."
In late May, the Senate Armed Services Committee approved Shaheen's amendment, attaching it to the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act. McCain, the committee's top Republican, voted in favor, as did Brown and Collins. Shaheen is "hopeful" her proposal has enough support to be included in the final bill. The NDAA still needs a vote on the Senate floor. But for Shaheen's amendment, there's a bigger problem: the Republican-controlled House.
"We don't really understand why anybody would oppose [Shaheen's bill]," says Sharon Levin, the director of federal reproductive health policy at the National Women's Law Center. "The only reason it wouldn't go through is if the Republican leadership in the House tried to block it."
That appears likely. A GOP staffer "familiar with defense issues" told Army Times last week that the Shaheen amendment "stands little chance of surviving" when the House and Senate meet to work out their differences on the defense bill. "Historically, social provisions that are not reflected in both bills heading into conference don't survive," the staffer said—conceding that the House version of the defense bill will not include anything like Shaheen's proposal.