U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) today joined Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Patty Murray (D-WA) and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) to introduce the Military Access to Reproductive Care and Health (MARCH) for Military Women Act, which would provide American service women health care coverage for abortion in cases of rape or incest and allow them to use their own personal resources to access a full range of reproductive health care at U.S. military facilities.
Senator Boxer said, "It is simply unacceptable that the brave women who fight to defend our country are being denied access to the full range of reproductive health care they need. I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing this legislation to end these unfair and unjust policies once and for all."
Currently, U.S. service women are denied health care coverage for abortion services except in cases where the mother's life is in danger. The military does not provide any other exceptions to this ban even for cases of rape or incest even though Medicaid recipients, federal government employees and Indian Health Services recipients are currently eligible for this coverage. This legislation would ensure that our service women are given these same rights.
American service women were allowed to use their own resources to access abortion services at U.S. military medical facilities until that right was rescinded in 1988. As a result, when service women deployed abroad need to access abortion services, in most cases they are forced to rely on local medical facilities -- which may be unsafe -- or must request leave to return to the United States or travel to another country where a full range of reproductive health care is available.
Lifting these bans is particularly important given the high rate of sexual assaults in our military. According to the recent Department of Defense Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military, 3,158 military sexual assaults were reported in 2010 and nearly 90 percent of sexual assaults went unreported. After enduring a traumatic experience such as a sexual assault, a service woman should not have to fight to receive medical services such as an abortion.