Senate Votes to Ease Ban on Abortion Coverage for Military Servicewomen; Bill Now Moves to Conference Committee

(PRESS RELEASE) Today the U.S. Senate voted 98-0 to pass the FY2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which includes a provision by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) that eases insurance coverage restrictions for servicewomen and military family members to allow coverage of abortion care for victims of rape or incest.

The House version of the NDAA retains prohibitions on abortion coverage for servicewomen who are raped, or who are the victims of incest. Conferees from the House and Senate will now meet to reconcile differences between the two chambers’ versions of the legislation. 

Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights: 

“The brave servicewomen of the United States, who put their lives on the line to fight to defend the United States and all the fundamental rights Americans hold dear, should not be afforded fewer rights than their fellow Americans.

“All women have a right to a full range of reproductive health care coverage—including abortion care in the case of rape or incest. 

“We applaud the U.S. Senate for taking this huge step in righting a wrong that has been harming servicewomen and military families for more than 30 years. We strongly urge members of the conference committee to support servicewomen who have been raped by retaining Senator Shaheen’s provision in the final version of the NDAA sent to President Obama for his signature.” 

Since 1979, federal health care coverage of abortion is only available for servicewomen and military family members when a woman’s life is at risk—in all other cases, including rape and incest, women must pay out-of-pocket for such reproductive health care. The Shaheen Amendment would put Department of Defense rules on abortion in line with other federal policies by giving women in uniform who are the victims of rape and incest the right to access affordable reproductive healthcare.