Shaheen Amendment provides critical abortion coverage for Latinas in the military
The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health joins others in applauding the inclusion of the Shaheen Amendment in the FY13 National Defense Authorization Act.
For Latinas in particular, this was a crucial advance for reproductive health. The number of Latino/as enlisting in the U.S. military continues to increase rapidly, with Latinas volunteering for service at even greater rates than their male counterparts. Before this amendment, Latinas who voluntarily risked their lives in military service didn’t have the same access to reproductive care as civilian women.
“Financial barriers make abortion care inaccessible for too many Latinas, including Latinas in the military,” says Jessica González-Rojas, executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. “Given that more than 13 percent of active-duty enlisted women are Latinas, and that they enroll at higher rates than Latinos, this is an important first step to giving Latina service members the ability to control their own reproductive care.”
Women in the military, including Latinas, are at high risk for rape and sexual assault. The U.S. Department of Defense estimated that 19,000 sexual assaults occurred in the military in 2011. In the Army alone, women make up 14 percent of the troops but account for 95 percent of sexual assaults. The statistics clearly show access to abortion care is critical to the health of Latina service members.
Leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees have approved a repeal of a policy that denied women in the military and their dependents abortion coverage in cases of rape or incest. The policy has been in place since 1981. An effort led by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) will put Department of Defense rules in line with other federal policies, ensuring that military women receive access to abortion coverage in cases of rape and incest.
“With the inclusion of my amendment in the final defense bill, we’ve made an important step to restoring equity to military service women,” said Shaheen. “After three decades of a policy that discriminated against women who put their lives on the line for us, I’m proud of my colleagues in both Houses of Congress and of both parties who are going to allow us to right this wrong. Also, I am grateful for the coalition of organizations that helped make this day happen, from retired military officers to women’s health advocates, that never stopped fighting for our military service women.”
While applauding this policy change, NLIRH continues to call for even broader access to the full range of reproductive care options to fully empower Latinas, including those in the military, to control the timing and spacing of their children.
The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health is the only national organization working on behalf of the reproductive health and justice of the 24 million Latinas, their families and communities in the United States through public education, community mobilization and policy advocacy.
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