Bennet, Hickenlooper and Shaheen Introduce Bill to Protect US Service Members’ Access to Protected Leave for Reproductive Health Care Services

Video of Bennett’s remarks last night HERE

Washington DC — Colorado US Senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper joined US Senator Jeanne Shaheen (DN.H.) to introduce the Health Care Access Act for Protective Service Members and Military Families. This legislation would codify the February 2023 Department of Defense (DoD) policy ensuring service members and their families can access uncovered reproductive health care, including abortion services and assisted reproductive technology such as fertilization in vitro, regardless of the state in which they are stationed. After the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe versus Wade40% of active-duty women face limited or no access to reproductive care.

“American service members and their families deserve access to safe reproductive health care, no matter where they are. As states continue to pass laws limiting abortion access and threatening doctors with lawsuits and jail time for providing abortion care, this bill protects access to reproductive care for those who serve our country and their families” said Bennett. “They signed up to defend our rights and we must defend theirs.”

“Our service members put their lives on the line for our freedom. Their freedom to access reproductive health care should not be limited based on where they are sent to serve” said Hickenlooper.

“The onslaught of anti-women laws enacted across our country since the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade endangered women’s access to comprehensive health services, including abortion. Among the people most vulnerable to these dangerous laws are service women and military families, who have no choice about where they are stationed and what state laws can govern women’s bodies. That’s why it’s imperative that Congress take action to enact the Department of Defense’s current policy to protect serving women and military families and provide them with much-needed leave for reproductive health care services,” Shaheen said. “It is shameful that Republicans have pushed Congress to this point – that we must safeguard paid leave so military personnel and their loved ones can seek the health care they need. Republican attacks against women are putting women’s lives at risk and, in this case, compromising military readiness as well. Maids shouldn’t be put in this position in the first place. I will do everything I can to mitigate the impact they may experience from these extreme policies and ensure their health and safety comes first.”

In March, Senators urged Department of Defense (DoD) Secretary Lloyd Austin to focus on the critical link between the readiness of our military and ensuring women in the armed services have access to reproductive health care. In that letter, the senators also asked the Department of Defense to consider abortion access among top personnel and base decisions.

Specifically, this bill:

  • Enable service members to access uncovered reproductive health care through administrative absence, to avoid loss of accrued leave, and on full pay;
  • Allow a service member to accompany a spouse or dependent receiving uncovered reproductive health care through an administrative absence;
  • To provide a service member, or their dependent, with access to travel and transportation allowances to receive uncovered reproductive health care (this does not include payment for reproductive care services); AND
  • Ensure the privacy of the service member requesting administrative absence is protected to access or accompany a spouse or dependent accessing uncovered reproductive health care.

Since March, Bennett has advocated for access to reproductive health care for military service members and their families on five separate occasions, including just last week and last night.

The Protecting Service Members and Military Families’ Access to Health Care Act is supported by the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the National Women’s Law Center, VoteVets, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the Service Women’s Action Network, the Vet Voice Foundation, Power to Decide , the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and the National Partnership for Women and Families.

In addition to Bennett, Hickenlooper and Shaheen, the bill is co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), John Fetterman (D-Pa.), Kirsten Gillibrand (DN. Y. ), Angus King (I-Maine), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Ma.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Cory Booker (DN.J. ), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Ed Markey (D -Mass.), and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).

The text of the bill is available HERE.

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