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Senate Comm. Lifts Some Abortion Restrictions for Service Women Who Are Sexually Assaulted

Senate Comm. Lifts Some Abortion Restrictions for Service Women Who Are Sexually Assaulted

May 25, 2012 — The Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday unanimously approved a defense authorization bill after voting 16-10 to add an amendment that would require the federal government to cover abortion care for service women in cases of rape or incest, National Journal reports (Baron, National Journal, 5/24).

Currently, the military covers abortion care for service women only if their lives are in danger. The amendment, sponsored by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), is similar to the Hyde Amendment, which permits abortion coverage in cases of rape, incest or life endangerment in most other government programs, according to the Air Force Times.

Supporters argued that it is important to extend the same coverage to military service members that civilians who are insured through the federal government receive.

"Civilian women who depend on the federal government for health insurance -- whether they are postal workers or Medicaid recipients -- have the right to access affordable abortion care if they are sexually assaulted," Shaheen said. "It is only fair that the thousands of brave women in uniform fighting to protect our freedom are treated the same," she added.

Greg Jacob, policy director at the Service Women's Action Network, noted that the measure received support from some Republicans on the Armed Services Committee -- Sens. Scott Brown (Mass.), Susan Collins (Maine) and John McCain (Ariz.).

However, opponents said the amendment has no chance in the House and noted that similar measures failed in the House and Senate when Democrats controlled both chamber (Standifer, Air Force Times, 5/24).

The full Senate is expected to consider the bill in June. If approved, lawmakers would have to negotiate to combine the bill with a version (HR 4310) approved last week by the House (Alexander, Reuters, 5/24).