California Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier believes that women serving in the military should have free birth control and has introduced a bill to make that belief a reality.
The steady increase in the number of women joining the military has brought additional healthcare expenditures to the forefront, most notably contraception. Speier wants to duplicate the language in the Affordable Care Act, which allows for birth control and counseling for free, and include it in the Department of Defense’s TRICARE health coverage, according to a recent press release introducing the legislation.
“The Affordable Care Act established that being a woman is not a preexisting condition,” said Speier. “We owe female servicemembers the same access to contraception and family planning services as the women they fight to protect.”
According to Rep. Speier, female servicemembers have a 50 percent higher rate of unplanned pregnancy as compared to the overall population. Moreover, as women in the military are often deployed in foreign countries, access to female-appropriate healthcare is often difficult and expensive. For Nancy Duff Campbell, co-president of the National Women’s Law Center, the bill is “critical to promoting military readiness.”
As reported by The Hill, the bill alludes to the difficulties the Pentagon is facing while trying hard to integrate women further into the military and into direct combat positions.
What the bill actually does is mandate that all FDA approved contraceptive methods be available without co-pay for women under the TRICARE health system, and it also stipulates that military facilities must bear the expense of carrying what the legislation calls a “wide range” of contraceptive products.
Women comprise 16 percent of both active duty and reserve members the military. With more education and free birth control, supporters of the bill believe that rates of unplanned pregnancy will decline.
On the Senate side, New Hampshire Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen introduced the legislation on Thursday. However, despite having 65 co-sponsors, the amendment has an even smaller chance of passing this session of Congress, since Republicans are present in much greater force and have also stated their intentions to repeal the Affordable Care Act. No Republican has decided to sponsor the legislation. Rep. Speier’s legislation will first have to endure a congressional committee before it can continue on to the House or Senate.
A previous version of the bill died during last year’s session of Congress in September shortly after it was introduced.
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