Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand joined with more than a dozen of her colleagues today introducing the Military Access to Reproductive Care and Health (MARCH) Act of 2013, allowing women in the military to use their own money to pay for abortions in military medical facilities. Currently, there is a ban on using private funds to pay for abortions in military hospitals, except in cases of life endangerment, rape or incest. Under the current law, servicewomen who have an unintended pregnancy may be dissuaded from receiving an abortion at facilities outside of the military base because it is an inadequate facility, there are language barriers, lack of availability, or lack of privacy.
“The MARCH Act is an integral part of protecting women in the military,” said Senator Gillibrand, the Chairman of the Senate Armed Service Subcommittee on Personnel. “This legislation would help to respect our servicewomen’s right to privacy while ensuring that they receive the best medical care possible in a timely manner.”
“It’s simply wrong that our brave servicewomen are denied access to a full range of reproductive health care, even when using their own resources,” Senator Barbara Boxer said.
“Our women in uniform continue to play increasingly critical roles in our military and there is no reason for them to be excluded from the same types of health care services available to those in the private sector,” said Senator Patty Murray.
“Women serving in foreign countries deserve access to safe and legal health care, which in many cases is not available off the military base. Women in the U.S. military shouldn’t have to forfeit their rights when they serve abroad, and this legislation would bring unjust treatment to an end,” said Senator Frank R. Lautenberg.
“Women who put their lives on the line for our country deserve access to comprehensive reproductive health care they need when they want it, regardless of where they seek care,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen. “This bill represents an important step forward for women serving in the military.”
“I’m proud to be a co-sponsor of this bill because there is no reason that our servicewomen should be denied access to critical health care services that are available to other women,” Senator Mark Begich said.
“I’m proud to support legislation that would improve servicewomen’s access to reproductive health care,” said Senator Al Franken. “The women serving in our military are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to protect our country—there’s no reason to deny them the right to make choices about their own medical care.”
The MARCH Act of 2013 would ensure quality medical care in a familiar military medical facility. As long as they pay out of pocket, the MARCH Act of 2013 would guarantee that American servicewomen would receive the same legally protected reproductive health care as their civilian counterparts.
This issue is critical now, as the military and Congress grapple with the crisis of sexual violence in our Armed Forces. The Department of Defense estimates that as many as 19,000 servicemembers are sexually assaulted each year. While victims of rape or incest now can receive abortion services at military medical facilities, for some disclosing their assault would be especially problematic; for example, because their commanding officer is the perpetrator of the assault. Other women may decide that they simply do not want to disclose that they were raped. Either way, the MARCH Act of 2013 would provide a path for women in this difficult position to receive services without compromising their privacy. Civilians can receive abortion services without disclosing the circumstances of their pregnancy. Women serving our country deserve no less.
Original cosponsors of the legislation include Senators Mark Begich, Richard Blumenthal, Barbara Boxer, Dick Durbin, Al Franken, Tom Harkin, Frank Lautenberg, Jeff Merkley, Patty Murray, Bernie Sanders, Jeanne Shaheen, Sheldon Whitehouse and Ron Wyden