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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Thursday, May 11, 2006

CONTACT:

NAF Communications Department
202-667-5881
press@prochoice.org

Servicewomen Overseas Deserve Better Access to Safe and Legal Health Care

Statement of Vicki Saporta, President and CEO of the National Abortion Federation

Washington - Vicki Saporta, President and CEO of the National Abortion Federation, today condemned the House for blocking votes on two critical amendments to the Defense Authorization Act and defeating a third amendment which would have improved access to health care for servicewomen overseas, including those who are survivors of sexual violence.

"Given all that we ask of our servicewomen stationed overseas, we should at least allow them to access the same health care services on military bases that they could obtain right here in the United States."

An amendment offered by Reps. Chris Shays (R-CT) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) would have allowed federally funded abortion care for military women who are rape or incest survivors, adding to the existing coverage of abortion in instances of life endangerment. The current law adds insult to injury by requiring out of pocket payment from servicewomen having abortions due to rape or incest.

An amendment proposed by Reps. Mike Michaud (D-ME) and Tim Ryan (D-OH), both of whom oppose legal abortion, required that emergency contraception be stocked and available on every military base. Emergency contraception is safe and most effective in preventing pregnancy when used within 72 hours of unprotected sex or contraceptive failure, including following rape or incest.

With reports of sexual assault on the rise, these amendments are needed more than ever. Military officials recently announced that there were 2,374 reported cases of sexual assault in 2005 - an increase of forty percent over the previous year. Victims of sexual assault in the military are most often from the lower ranks, earning less pay, and therefore less likely to be able to pay for necessary medical services. Denial of coverage adds significant financial burdens to women who may delay accessing care in order to find the needed funds.

A third amendment, sponsored by Reps. Susan Davis (D-CA) and Jane Harman (D-CA) would have removed the discriminatory ban on privately funded abortions at overseas military hospitals. Due to the ban, servicewomen are forced to choose between traveling far distances to an American provider, seeking services from a local, unfamiliar health care facility, or having an unsafe back-alley abortion. We are disappointed that the Davis-Harman amendment, failed to pass the full House.

Each of these amendments would have helped ensure equal access to reproductive health care for American servicewomen, military wives, and their daughters, no matter where they are stationed. These women should be able to access the same health care services on military bases overseas that they could obtain if stationed in the United States.

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The National Abortion Federation (NAF) is the professional association of abortion providers in the United States and Canada. Our mission is to ensure safe, legal, and accessible abortion care to promote health and justice for women. Our members include health care professionals at clinics, doctors' offices, and hospitals, who together care for more than half the women in both countries who choose abortion each year. For more information, visit our website at www.prochoice.org

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