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President Obama Signs Defense Bill That Allows Some Abortion Coverage for Servicewomen

President Obama Signs Defense Bill That Allows Some Abortion Coverage for Servicewomen

January 4, 2013 — President Obama on Wednesday signed a $633 billion Department of Defense authorization bill (HR 4310) that includes a provision allowing the military's health plan to cover abortion in cases of rape or incest, the AP/Huffington Post reports (Daly, AP/Huffington Post, 1/3).

The military currently only covers abortions needed to save a woman's life.

The provision was sponsored by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and brings the military's coverage of abortion in line with insurance programs offered to federal employees and other women who get their health insurance through the federal government. Shaheen said the bill is an "important step" but the government still has "a long way to go to ensuring policies are carried out across the military."

There were about 19,000 sexual assaults in the military in 2010, of which an estimated fewer than 15% were reported, according to estimates from the Service Women's Action Network.

Jessica Kenyon, an advocate for sexual assault survivors, said that under the new bill, abortions still could be delayed by flawed sexual assault reporting and investigations protocol. She suggested that impartial commanders or a civilian social work authority be assigned to such cases (Yarrow, Daily Beast, 1/3).