(WASHINGTON) — In a letter sent to key lawmakers on Capitol Hill former U.S. Secretary of State and retired U.S. Army Gen. Colin Powell called on Congress to support abortion coverage for military rape victims.
“Restoring abortion coverage to our servicewomen and military family members who are survivors of rape and incest would bring the Department of Defense in line with the policy that governs other federal programs, such as Medicaid or the Federal Employee Health Benefit program,” Powell, along with dozens of military leaders wrote. “At the very least, our military women deserve the same access to care as civilian women who rely on the federal government for their health care.”
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., introduced the amendment which would allow the Department of Defense to cover the cost of abortions for servicewomen who are survivors of rape and incest.
Under current law, the Department of Defense is allowed to only provide coverage for an abortion if the servicemember’s life is in danger. There is no exemption for abortion coverage in the case of rape or incest, unlike many other federal health programs.
“The current policy is unfair and must be changed,” Powell and the other signers say in the letter. “Our servicewomen commit their lives to defending our freedoms; Congress should respect their service and sacrifice and provide them with the same level of health care coverage it provides civilians.”
The amendment is included in the National Defense Authorization Act which passed unanimously in the Senate last week.
The legislation is currently being worked on in a conference between the House and the Senate. If the provision is included in the final defense authorization bill each chamber, the House and Senate, will be able to vote on it during final passage of the bill.
The letter was sent to the Chairman and Ranking Member in the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, who will be in charge of hammering out a final Defense Authorization Bill that can pass in both houses of Congress.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Dan Berman, CNN
Maeve Reston, CNN