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Mr. BROWN of Massachusetts. Mr. President, I rise to speak about something very serious, which is the issue of sexual assault in the military, and in support of the Shaheen amendment which I cosponsored in the Senate Armed Services Committee markup. Today, I wrote a letter to the House majority leadership expressing my concern for this issue and asking that it be addressed immediately.
The Senate Armed Services Committee recently considered and passed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013, and it awaits full consideration of the Senate.
As we all know, our troops need the tools and resources to complete their mission. It is imperative that it gets brought up right away.
As a member of the committee, I joined with members of both sides of the aisle in supporting this amendment which would ensure that women who serve in our Armed Forces and their families are provided access to abortion services in cases of rape or incest.
Sadly, sexual assault of women servicemembers has been recently exposed as far more prevalent than anyone previously thought. As a matter of fact, the Pentagon believes such crimes are vastly underreported. There is evidence that there are as many as 19,000 assaults that are committed every year. That is as many as 50 each day.
Furthermore, women are serving in harm's way--we know that--and they are often in dangerous locations without access to safe, nonmilitary health services.
Given their courageous service, they deserve our care and protection, put quite simply.
The language of the amendment is consistent with the longstanding Hyde amendment, which prevents Federal funding for abortions, except for the victims of rape or incest or when the life of the mother is at stake.
It is a simple issue: Those who are serving in harm's way who are victims of such horrific crimes should be afforded the same rights as citizens they protect and who rely on Federal funding for their health care.
Our amendment passed 16 to 10 on a bipartisan basis, as I referenced earlier, in committee, and I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure it remains included in the version that passes the full Senate.
As I said, unfortunately, the House Armed Services Committee did not include a similar provision in their version of the bill, and I am not quite sure why.
I urge the House Members to think about the real-world implications of their actions and not block this legislation. I hope we can work together, in a truly bipartisan and bicameral basis, to ensure that our amendment language becomes law so the President may sign it as such.
Extending these provisions to our military servicewomen is the right thing to do.
I thank the Presiding Officer and yield the floor.
I suggest the absence of a quorum.
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