By Sarah Lipton-Lubet, Policy Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office
The Davis-Andrews-DeGette-Maloney-Sanchez-Slaughter Amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act should have been a no-brainer. It would have allowed the military health system to cover abortion care in cases of rape and incest – just as the federal government does in the Medicaid program, for federal employees and for women who use the Indian Health Service, among others. All the amendment would do is stop singling out U.S. servicewomen and military families for inferior treatment.
And yet, last night, House leadership prevented debate and a floor vote on this important amendment. Never mind that the House will vote on 152 other defense bill amendments; anti-choice members decided that the wellbeing of U.S. servicewomen wasn’t worth 10 minutes of debate.
What are they afraid of? Appearing callous and mean-spirited? I hate to break it to them, but the cat’s out of the bag. Keeping this amendment off the floor sends the same message as voting against it would have: You don’t believe American servicewomen deserve equal treatment or compassionate care.
This is the same faction that in recent months tried to redefine rape, created the rape audit and opposed protecting the medical privacy of sexual assault survivors if they sought abortion care. Their anti-choice, anti-rape survivor agenda is unrelenting, but it makes them look bad. That’s why House leadership is scared to let Congress debate it.
House leadership’s decision to turn its back on the particular plight of U.S. servicewomen is inexcusable. A woman serving in the armed forces is twice as likely to be sexually assaulted as her civilian counterpart, and sexual violence is the primary cause of post-traumatic stress disorder for women who serve. This is the context in which abortion opponents want to take a stand against care for rape survivors?
Vote or no vote, the Davis Amendment was a shot across the bow. In the coming months, as the defense bill moves to the Senate, we’re taking the fight with us. As long as U.S. servicewomen stand by our country, the ACLU will stand by them. Stayed tuned as we feature military voices and information on what you can do to help ensure that the U.S. government treats military women with the compassion and respect they have earned.