(WOMENSENEWS)–Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., helped kick off an advocacy campaign on June 7 to encourage the removal of some limitations on abortion coverage in the military.
She spoke at a press conference in Washington, D.C. in favor of covering abortions for military women in the case of rape or incest. Since 1979, military heath insurance has only covered abortion to save a woman’s life.
Shaheen tweeted a few quotes from the event, such as, “Retired Army General Dennis Laich: Lifting this ban is basic fairness and ensures military readiness.”
The ad campaign, which released a video on June 6 on YouTube, was launched by the American Civil Liberties Union with retired military leaders and veterans. It is part of a coalition effort called Stand with Servicewomen.
The newest video features three women in the military who “fought for the freedom and justice our country stands for” but who are “denied abortion care, even if I’m the victim of rape.”
In another video of three a woman recounts her own experience as a survivor of assault. “When you’re not allowed choices [after assault], even more of your power is stripped away.” She goes on to say, “It’s not a Republican issue, it’s not a Democratic issue. It is an issue that affects the United States military and the women who serve in it.”
Over 400,000 women serve in the U.S. armed forces, and in 2011 there were 3,192 reports of sexual assault, although the Department of Defense estimates that 86 percent of incidents are unreported.
On May 24, the Senate Armed Services Committee voted to include the Shaheen Amendment as part of the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which will be voted on later this year. The amendment was also passed by the Senate committee last year, but was not allowed to come to debate on the Senate floor.
The Shaheen Amendment, while opposed by anti-choice members of Congress, would bring abortion coverage for military women in line with coverage that is available to women under other government health care programs, such as Medicaid.
The New York Times recently published an op-ed concerning the amendment, which applauded Republican Sens. John McCain, Ariz., Scott Brown, Mass., and Susan Collins, Maine, for voting in favor. However, nine Republicans – along with Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson, Neb. – voted no.
Samantha Kimmey is a writer in Brooklyn, N.Y. covering women and politics this election season.