The New York Civil Liberties and 26 other women’s health organizations have sent a letter to U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., thanking her for sponsoring a bill to expand access to crucial health-care services for the more than 400,000 women serving in the U.S. military.
The legislation, the Military Access to Reproductive Care and Health (MARCH) for Military Women Act, would provide federal coverage for abortion care for military personnel and families in cases of rape or incest and allow privately-funded abortions to be performed at military treatment facilities.
“At a time when U.S. servicewomen are risking their lives for our country, it is unconscionable to continue denying them access to critical health care,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “We applaud Senator Gillibrand for working to end this injustice by restoring comprehensive reproductive healthcare to our servicewomen.”
Currently, U.S. servicewomen receive no federal coverage for abortion care in cases of rape or incest, unlike other federal programs that provide for such an exception. Instead, servicewomen and the wives and daughters of service members must pay for care out of their own pockets after being raped.
Further, federal law also prohibits military facilities from providing abortion services to women, except in very limited circumstances, even when patients pay for the procedure out of their own pockets. This means that a servicewoman or military family member who chooses not to disclose a rape or who faces an unintended pregnancy cannot use even her own money to obtain abortion care. As a result, a servicewoman may have no choice than to resort to substandard and unsafe facilities in foreign countries, or be forced to carry her pregnancy to term.
The organizations also sent a letter to U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., thanking him for supporting MARCH.