Shaheen Amendment Moving Forward in Congress

Just a few more votes and women in the military may finally have the same access to abortion that other women with federal health care plans are supposed to have.

Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D - NH)

New Hampshire Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen has made it her mission to ensure that women in the military have the same access to abortion as do all other women with  federal health care policies. The Hyde Amendment limits government funding of abortions only to cases of rape or incest, or when a woman’s life or health is in jeopardy, but for those in the military the restrictions are even greater. Only in the case where a woman’s health is in jeopardy can a pregnancy be terminated.

The Shaheen Amendment would change that, and has been slowly working its way through Congress since 2011. Military personnel have already thrown their support behind the bill, and now she is receiving bipartisan support in the Senate as well, including from her state’s other senator.

Via the Nashua Telegraph:

“We have more than 200,000 women in the military serving in active duty,” Shaheen told a Wednesday press conference at which she appeared with several retired military officers. “They are pilots, they are drivers, they’re mechanics, they’re medics, they’re special ops. They serve in the line of fire in Iraq and Afghanistan – and yet they don’t have the same coverage as the women that they are putting their lives on the line to protect.”

Although U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a Republican who also serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, opposed the Shaheen amendment in committee, she expressed support for the provision in a letter to the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate Armed Services panels.

“While I strongly oppose abortion, I have also been clear that I support exceptions in cases when the life of the mother is endangered or in cases of rape or incest,” Ayotte wrote in registering her support for the section of the bill that includes Shaheen’s provision, and asking for it to be upheld in conference.

The senate has now approved the National Defense Authorization Act, with the Shaheen amendment as part of the bill. The question now remains whether the House will allow the amendment to stay intact as the bill reaches their committee for final approval, or if they will strip it to match their version, and continue to leave the women who serve their country to pay out of pocket in order to end a pregnancy as a result of sexual assault.