They fight, they risk their lives and serve our country, but are you aware that service women in the military who are raped — a reported 3,158 cases of sexual assault in the military were reported last year — are not covered by insurance if they elect to have an abortion?

General Colin Powell, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State under former President George W. Bush, joined a letter on Monday with dozens of military leaders urging congressional support for an amendment that would allow the Department of Defense to cover the cost of abortions for servicewomen who are survivors of rape and incest.

The Shaheen Amendment, introduced by U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D, NH), was included in the version of the National Defense Authorization Act passed unanimously by the Senate on December 4th and is now pending final negotiation between House and Senate conferees.

“It has been our privilege to lead and serve alongside the brave men and women of our armed forces and we believe that they deserve the best medical care that our country can provide,” Powell wrote in a letter signed by dozens of military leaders.

“We were therefore greatly disappointed to learn that, by federal statute, the Department of Defense is barred from providing insurance coverage for abortion except where a pregnant woman’s life is endangered. Unlike other current federal restrictions on abortion coverage, the military ban provides no exception for cases of rape and incest. The current policy is unfair and must be changed.”

Currently, military service women who have been raped must pay out-of-pocket for abortions unless the pregnancy is life threatening.

“It’s simply unfair that we’ve singled out the women who are putting their lives on the line in the military,” Shaheen told the Huffington Post. “We have young women who are starting out making $18,000 a year, and they just are not able to deal with this situation on the private side when it happens to them.”


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