On Monday, Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (NY-28) and Senator Kristin Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced the Military Access to Reproductive Care Act (MARCH) that would remove the ban preventing servicewomen from obtaining an abortion in cases of rape and incest. Anu Bhagwati, executive director of the Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN), indicated her support for the measure: “This legislation would not only restore abortion coverage to our military women who are survivors of rape and incest, but it would also bring the Department of Defense in line with the policy that governs other federal programs.”
Currently, Department of Defense policy does not permit military health insurance to cover abortions, even in cases of rape. It also prohibits military women from using their private money to obtain abortion services in US military facilities.
Congresswoman Slaughter stated, “As our servicewomen risk their lives defending our country, it is deeply unfair that they are denied the rights of the Constitution that they defend. Imagine being a victim of rape on a United States military base overseas being denied the abortion coverage, and then having to turn to a potentially unsafe local facility. It’s preposterous and incredibly unjust to the women who serve our country so proudly each day.”
According to a 2003 study by the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, at least one-third of all women veterans have experienced rape or sexual assault during their service, primarily from US service personnel, and thirty percent of military women experience domestic violence. Moreover, rape occurs in the military nearly twice as often as in the civilian world.