Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts, originally wrote this blog for Boston.com.
Read our letter to Sen. Brown (PDF)
Senator Scott Brown can make good on his promise to support our troops and veterans this week by supporting a proposal by New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen to ensure that military servicewomen and their families have the same access to medical care as their civilian counterparts.
Sen. Shaheen’s amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (the Act that funds our troops) would allow the military health system to cover abortion care in cases of rape and incest--and only in those cases--just as the federal government does for all other federal employees, women enrolled in Medicaid, and women in federal prisons.
More than 400,000 women currently serve in the United States Armed Forces. At a time when servicewomen and their families put their lives and limbs at risk to preserve our rights and freedom, it’s critical that Congress ensure that they have the same care as the civilians they protect.
It’s also a chance for Senator Brown to show that he puts the needs of our troops before demands of ideological purity among some in his party. And it is particularly important since women in the military are raped far more frequently than their civilian counterparts.
According to one recent study, more than one in three women are sexually assaulted during their military service, and this number could be even higher due to widespread underreporting of rape in the military. Further troubling is the fact that military sexual assault most commonly affects junior enlisted--young women who have the fewest resources, the lowest salaries, and are least able to pay for medical services themselves.
It is unconscionable that our nation would abandon a military servicewoman who has been a victim of rape, who often is far from her home and family, and effectively bar her from obtaining an abortion and related medical care. At a minimum, our women soldiers should have the same medical benefits as civilian women who work for the federal government.
The Shaheen Amendment does one simple, yet powerful, thing: it stops singling out U.S. servicewomen and military families for inferior and unequal treatment.
If support for our troops means anything, it must include equal access to medical care for our military servicewomen, servicemen, and their families.
Senator Brown should do the honorable thing--and support the Shaheen Amendment.