On April 20, Congresswoman Marilyn Strickland (WA-10), Jackie Speier (CA-14), Veronica Escobar (TX-16), and 102 Members introduced the Access to Contraception for Servicemembers and Dependents Act to ensure military families receive the quality reproductive health care they deserve. The bill would bring health care provided by the military in line with current law for civilian populations by ensuring that those who receive health care through the military have access to all forms of Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved contraception with no health insurance co-pay. The legislation would also guarantee access to emergency contraception for survivors of sexual assault upon their request and require DoD to develop a comprehensive family planning education program. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. Senate.
“Taking care of our military families at Joint Base Lewis–McChord in my district and across our nation is not only foundational to our nation’s readiness, it is also just the right thing to do for the people who sacrifice so much to keep us safe,” said Rep. Marilyn Strickland. “Military families should not have to worry about how to secure basic aspects of health care that are already guaranteed by the Affordable Care Act. I could not be more proud to join Representatives Jackie Speier and Veronica Escobar in introducing vital legislation to ensure access to reproductive health care for our military families.”
“Our military families should not have fewer rights than those they serve to protect,” said Rep. Speier, Chair of the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee. “Access to basic, preventive health care, including contraception and family planning counseling, is critical to troop readiness, wellbeing, and equality. Imposing cost barriers is an unfair burden harming patients’ ability to access the birth control they need and increasing the risk of unintended pregnancy. I won’t stop fighting until our military families have access to the full range of reproductive health care they deserve.”
“Access to reproductive health services is essential to comprehensive health care. U.S. service members deserve the same quality of care as the civilians they fight to protect,” said Sen. Shaheen. “It’s unacceptable that some members of our military and their family members are saddled with out-of-pocket expenses for contraception, while patients in the commercial insurance market are guaranteed access to contraception without cost-sharing. Removing these barriers and ensuring reproductive care is available to our military families upholds our commitment to provide them quality, comprehensive services and also is an investment in our military readiness. We owe them the best for their service and sacrifice for our nation.”
“Our servicemembers make invaluable sacrifices every day to protect our nation and deserve comprehensive access to all health care services,” said Rep. Escobar. “Access to contraception and family planning counseling are fundamental rights, and servicemembers and their families should have those resources available to them without any cost barriers. I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing this commonsense legislation to empower military families and ensure they receive the best health care possible.”
The Department of Defense provides health care to nearly 1.6 million women of reproductive age, including servicemembers, guardsmen, reservists, spouses, and dependents. Research has shown that servicemembers face unique challenges accessing contraception and family planning counseling, especially when deployed. Although the Affordable Care Act (ACA) guarantees that employer-sponsored and marketplace health plans cover preventive services without cost sharing, including all FDA-approved contraceptive methods, counseling, and related services, these protections do not apply to coverage through TRICARE, a health care program for uniformed servicemembers and their families. Due to this disparity, non-active duty servicemembers and dependents of servicemembers are particularly impacted. These provisions passed the U.S. House of Representatives as part of the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act.
The bill has been endorsed by numerous organizations, including: the American Civil Liberties Union, American College of Nurse-Midwives, American Medical Student Association, Catholics for Choice, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Reproductive Rights, Endocrine Society, Guttmacher Institute, In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda, Ibis Reproductive Health, Ipas, Jacobs Institute of Women’s Health, Jewish Women International, Medical Students for Choice, NARAL Pro-Choice America, National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health, National Birth Equity Collaborative, National Council of Jewish Women, National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, National Health Law Program, National Organization for Women, National Partnership for Women & Families, National Women’s Law Center, Physicians for Reproductive Health, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Population Institute, Power to Decide, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, Reproductive Health Access Project, Service Women’s Action Network, Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine, Union for Reform Judaism, and Women of Reform Judaism.
The Access to Contraception for Servicemembers and Dependents Act would:
- Require that all people enrolled in TRICARE have coverage of contraceptives without cost-sharing, the same as civilians;
- Require the Department of Defense to develop a comprehensive family planning education program for all servicemembers, ensuring that military families have the information necessary to make informed decisions; and
- Guarantee access to emergency contraception for survivors of sexual assault upon their request.
The Access to Contraception for Servicemembers and Dependents Act is cosponsored by: Pete Aguilar, Jake Auchincloss, Ami Bera, Sanford D. Bishop, Earl Blumenauer, Lisa Blunt Rochester, Suzanne Bonamici, Anthony G. Brown, Julia Brownley, Cori Bush, Tony Cárdenas, André Carson, Kathy Castor, Judy Chu, David N. Cicilline, Yvette D. Clarke, Steve Cohen, Gerry Connolly, Jim Cooper, Danny K. Davis, Madeleine Dean, Peter A. DeFazio, Diana DeGette, Rosa DeLauro, Suzan DelBene, Ted Deutch, Veronica Escobar, Bill Foster, Lois Frankel, Ruben Gallego, Raul Grijalva, Jahana Hayes, Jim Himes, Steven Horsford, Chrissy Houlahan, Jared Huffman, Sheila Jackson Lee, Sara Jacobs, Pramila Jayapal, Hank Johnson, Mondaire Jones, Kaiali?i Kahele, William R. Keating, Ro Khanna, Derek Kilmer, Ann Kirkpatrick, Ann McLane Kuster, Rick Larsen, Brenda L. Lawrence, Al Lawson, Barbara Lee, Mike Levin, Ted W. Lieu, Alan Lowenthal, Tom Malinowski, Sean Patrick Maloney, Carolyn B. Maloney, Lucy McBath, Betty McCollum, James P. McGovern, Grace Meng, Gwen Moore, Joe Morelle, Seth Moulton, Jerrold Nadler, Grace F. Napolitano, Joe Neguse, Marie Newman, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Tom O’Halleran, Ilhan Omar, Jimmy Panetta, Chris Pappas, Donald M. Payne Jr., Scott H. Peters, Chellie Pingree, Katie Porter, Ayanna Pressley, David Price, Mike Quigley, Jamie Raskin, Kathleen M. Rice, Deborah Ross, Tim Ryan, Gregorio Sablan, Linda T. Sanchez, John P. Sarbanes, Mary Gay Scanlon, Jan Schakowsky, Adam B. Schiff, Kim Schrier, Brad Sherman, Albio Sires, Marilyn Strickland, Eric Swalwell, Mark Takano, Dina Titus, Marc Veasey, Nydia M. Velázquez, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Peter Welch, Nikema Williams, Frederica S. Wilson, and John Yarmuth.
Quotes from supporting organizations are listed below:
“Contraception is essential reproductive health care, and all military service members and their families deserve the same access to birth control as every other federal employee. The Access to Contraception for Servicemembers and their Dependents Act, which reflects the increasing diversity of the military, will finally ensure that all servicemembers and their family members have access to the full range of contraceptive services they need at no cost, support the needs of military sexual assault survivors, and standardize vital family planning education so that these servicemembers who sacrificed so much for our country are able to plan if and when to start a family,” said Jacqueline Ayers, vice president of government relations and public policy at Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
“Access to birth control is critical to making sure that every body has the freedom to determine their own futures. As the daughter and granddaughter of members of the military, I know firsthand how ensuring servicemembers and their families have access to high-quality healthcare, including contraception and family planning education, helps people thrive. NARAL strongly supports the Access to Contraception for Servicemembers and Dependents Act,” said NARAL Pro-Choice America National Communications Director Kristin Ford.
“Servicemembers and their families should have access to birth control and related care without out-of-pocket costs. This bill removes barriers that no one should be facing – especially during this time of crisis, when more people are seeking to delay or avoid pregnancy. We’re proud to work with Representatives Speier, Escobar, and Strickland, and Senator Shaheen, and we will continue to push for expansive access to quality health care, including all forms of birth control,” said Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC).
“Like all members of our communities, Servicemembers and their dependents deserve access to comprehensive coverage for the contraceptive method that is right for them based on their health, values, and life goals. Access to birth control is a vital part of our collective health and wellbeing, especially as we continue to navigate the impacts of a global pandemic. Contraception is essential health care allowing people to plan and space their pregnancies in a way that is best for their health and their families. No matter how you get your health care, you should have coverage for the birth control method that is right for you,” said Dr. Jamila Perritt, MD MPH FACOG, President and CEO of Physicians for Reproductive Health.
“Servicemembers who have committed their lives to serving our country deserve equal and affordable access to comprehensive contraceptive services for themselves and for their families. With the vast majority of servicemembers being of reproductive age, the benefits of expanding coverage for contraception and family planning services couldn’t be clearer,” said Sara Outterson, Senior Federal Legislative Counsel of the Center for Reproductive Rights.
“All servicemembers and their dependents who rely on the military for their health coverage deserve access to comprehensive contraceptive coverage and care, as well as family planning education. As more people seek to prevent or delay pregnancy during a devastating pandemic, our servicemembers and their families deserve no less than the highest quality contraceptive care, without additional cost barriers,” said Dr. Raegan McDonald-Mosley, MD, MPH, CEO of Power to Decide.
Congresswoman Marilyn Strickland serves as a Member of the House Armed Services Committee and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. She is one of the first Korean-American women elected to Congress and the first African-American to represent the Pacific Northwest at the federal level.