The progress women in the military have made is truly remarkable. During the American Revolution, women served exclusively as nurses, water bearers, cooks, laundresses and saboteurs. In the past decade alone, we’ve seen a lot of firsts for women. We saw the first women in U.S. Naval history take command of a fighter squadron, we saw the first woman become Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard and we saw the first woman receive the rank of four-star general in the U.S. Army. The days when a small number of women tended to the health and domestic needs of servicemen are long over. Approximately 205,000 of the 1.4 million-member active-duty force are women.
While these turning points and accomplishments are impressive, women in the military have not had it easy. Women in the military are victims of sexual assault at greater rates than the general population. A startling one in three servicewomen has been sexually assaulted compared to one in six civilian women. While efforts to stop sexual violence against women in the military have been put forth, little progress has been made. What’s just as shocking as the lack of protection women have is the lack of reproductive rights women who serve our country have. At this time, women in the military who are impregnated through rape cannot get abortion coverage through their federal health care plans. This is a huge injustice. Women in the military deserve equity and should have the same access to reproductive services as the general population.
Passage of the Shaheen Amendment would provide an essential step in the direction of reproductive justice for military women. This amendment would give servicewomen the same rights to access abortion services that federal employees have. This amendment is currently being debated in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013. In honor of equity, rights and justice, we ask you to stand with servicewomen by joining former Ms. Foundation for Women grantee Service Women’s Action Network’s campaign asking Congress to give servicewomen the same health insurance coverage they give to other federal employees. This Veterans Day, let’s fight for the women who fight for us. Let’s honor all armed service veterans, servicemen and servicewomen who make America the great nation that it is.