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Defending the Rights of the Women Who Defend Us

Written by Sarah Lipton-Lubet, ACLU Washington Legislative Office, for - News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

This week, Reps. Susan Davis (D-Calif.), Robert D. Andrews (D-N.J.), Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) and Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) stood up for U.S. servicewomen, and submitted an amendment to the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act that would end the unconscionable policy of denying rape survivors serving in the military health coverage for abortion care. The all-powerful House of Representatives Committee on Rules will decide this week whether this amendment — protecting the health and rights of U.S. servicewomen — deserves to get a vote.

Sexual assault in the armed services is at crisis levels. Tragically, we see story after story of servicewomen being attacked by their own colleagues. In the fiscal year 2010, according to the Department of Defense, 3,158 military sexual assaults were reported, many of which were reports of rape. As DOD officials have stated, even “one sexual assault is one too many,” but the above number — which is in the thousands — barely scratches the surface. Most servicewomen who have experienced sexual violence do not report the incident. Researchers estimate that up to one-third of women experience an attempted or completed rape during their military service.

In the face of this epidemic, federal law denies servicewomen and military families coverage for abortion care, even in cases of rape or incest. ... Read more