Back in the summer of 2011, I wrote my first blog as a staff member of the ACLU of Maine. The subject was a proposal in Congress that would have rectified a terrible wrong that had gone on for more than three decades: Under law, U.S. servicewomen who became pregnant as a result of rape or incest were not covered for any abortion care, even though a federal employee or a Medicaid enrollee in the same situation would be. But the proposal languished in the Senate and never even made it to the floor for a vote.
A little over a year and a half later, I’m happy to report that justice has finally won out. Last week, President Obama signed into law the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act. As Ryan blogged about on Friday, this law contains a lot of troubling sections that threaten our civil liberties. But it also includes the Shaheen Amendment, the provision that finally repeals the ban on insurance coverage for abortion for servicewomen and dependents who are survivors of rape or incest.
It’s pathetic that it took so long for this problem to be fixed, and it’s disappointing that it was attached to a bill with so many other civil liberties problems. But a win is a win. This is an important step forward that will have a significant impact for servicewomen who are the victims of rape or incest. No longer will they be forced to pay for abortion care out of their own pocket and find their own treatment facilities.
In just over two weeks we’ll be celebrating the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. We hope you’ll join us in Augusta on January 22nd for the “Moving Choice Forward for ME” rally. If you do, you’ll hear some great speeches about the importance of choice and its impact on the lives of women (and men). That it has taken us until 2013 to provide insurance coverage for abortion to servicewomen who have been raped ought to serve as a reminder that even with all our progress, the struggle for choice still continues on.