Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and 15 other senators today introduced the Access to Contraception for Women Servicemembers and Dependents Act of 2014, which would overhaul current Department of Defense’s policy on contraceptive coverage and family planning counseling. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) is the lead sponsor of the legislation.The bill would bring health care provided by the military in line with current law for civilian populations by ensuring that all women who receive health care through the United States military have access to all FDA-approved contraception with no health insurance co-pay. The bill would also require the Department of Defense to develop and implement family planning counseling for all servicewoman at specific points during her service.
“Female service members deserve access to the same basic health care as the women they protect and it’s unacceptable that they don’t,” Senator Shaheen said. “Giving women in the military access to basic preventative health care, including contraception and family planning counseling, will strengthen our military as a whole. And it will make sure that women who get their health insurance from the military never have to worry about how they’re going to pay for their contraception.”
The Access to Contraception for Women Servicemembers and Dependents Act of 2014 builds off the Shaheen Amendment, which was signed into law last year, to provide health care equity to women serving in the military. Studies have shown that the rate of unplanned pregnancy in the military is estimated to be up to 50 percent higher than the unplanned pregnancy rate among civilian women. Shaheen’s legislation takes a comprehensive approach to the issue by improving access to contraception for all women who receive their care through the military and ensuring that servicewomen have the best possible information about their health care and family planning options, wherever they are serving. Finally, the legislation would also ensure access to emergency contraception for servicewomen who are survivors of military sexual assault so that that they receive the critical and time-sensitive medical counseling and care they may need.
“We applaud Senator Shaheen for introducing this legislation, and for all her hard work to expand access to birth control,” said Cecile Richards, president, Planned Parenthood Action Fund. “No woman should have to worry about affording prescription birth control - and the women and families who have served our country in the armed forces should have the same access to no-copay birth control as other American women. That’s why we fought so hard for coverage of the full range of contraception methods to be included in the Affordable Care Act and why we’re continuing our work to ensure all women, no matter where they live, work or how much money they have, can access this basic preventive care.”
“Contraception is basic preventive health care. This bill makes the necessary changes to the military's health care system to ensure that all women who rely on the military for health care receive comprehensive contraceptive coverage and counseling without any cost to them,” said Nancy Duff Campbell, Co-President of the National Women’s Law Center. “The military stands up for us and it’s past time that we stand up for the women who serve our country and the women in our military families.”
"Most people are aghast when they realize that the women who step forward to protect our country are forced to step back when it comes to having full coverage for reproductive health care, " said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. "Servicewomen must, at the very least, receive the same care that women at home now have thanks to the Affordable Care Act. Senators Shaheen, Reid and Murray have come to the defense of our military servicewomen and families with legislation that will ensure access to the comprehensive health care they deserve, including birth control and accurate family-planning counseling. If we trust our servicewomen to protect our freedom, we must be there to protect theirs. This legislation helps to ensure that our nation's heroes are not left behind."
"With the Hobby Lobby decision last month, the Supreme Court chose corporations over women’s health. Thankfully, New Hampshire has a Senator that continues to stand strong with women,” said Laura Thibault, NARAL Pro-Choice NH Executive Director. “This bill is a perfect example of Senator Shaheen’s leadership and commitment to protecting women’s access to basic preventive health care."
The legislation is also co-sponsored by Senators Harry Reid (D-NV), Patty Murray (D-WA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Al Franken (D-MN), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Jon Tester (D-MT) and Mark Begich (D-AK).