Congress: Protect Servicewomen's Reproductive Choices

Why are women serving our country denied access to reproductive choices? Women in the armed services deserve the highest standard of care, and that includes access to Plan B contraceptives.

About 350,000 women currently serve in the U.S. military, making up almost 15 percent of all active-duty personnel. But federal law does little to protect their reproductive rights. Not only are servicewomen banned from accessing abortion care at military medical facilities, many can't even obtain emergency contraception at their base pharmacy.

Timely access to emergency contraception is important for military women, especially since nearly 3,000 incidents of sexual assault were reported in the military last year – an approximate 24 percent increase from 2005.

Congress has an opportunity to improve health care for women in the military with a bill sponsored by lawmakers in both parties and on both sides of the choice issue, supporting the addition of Plan B to the list of medications that must be stocked at every military health-care facility.

A vote could take place this week and the vote is going to be very close.

Take action today to defend the rights of those who defend us by telling Congress to pass the Compassionate Care for Servicewoman Act.

As you consider the FY'08 National Defense Authorization Act, I urge you to support the Michaud amendment to make sure that women in the military have timely access to emergency contraception.

In February 2002, the Defense Department committee charged with recommending medications for the basic core formulary decided to add the emergency contraceptive Plan B to the list. Weeks later, without explanation, Bush administration political appointees quietly reversed the decision. The Compassionate Care for Servicewomen Act would simply remove the decision about Plan B from the hands of political appointees and return it to the Department's expert committee by making sure that Plan B is finally added to the formulary.

As you know, emergency contraception is simply a concentrated dose of ordinary birth-control pills that can reduce a woman's chance of becoming pregnant if taken soon after sex. It does not cause abortion; rather it prevents pregnancy.

While EC is now available over the counter at pharmacies stateside, it is not universally available at overseas facilities. Given both the restrictions on abortion care in the military and the growing number of reported sexual-assault cases among servicewomen, Congress bears the responsibility, at a minimum, to make sure that this important and time-sensitive method of contraception is available to women at all military health-care facilities.

Based on the bipartisan Compassionate Care for Servicewomen Act (H.R.2064), the Michaud amendment represents one step towards improving the reproductive health of our brave servicewomen.

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I urge you to join pro-choice and pro-life lawmakers in support of this important measure.

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