The Affordable Care Act (ACA) guarantees coverage of preventive services such as FDA-approved contraception and counseling without cost sharing, but this policy does not apply to servicemembers and dependents covered through TRICARE. As a result, some non-active duty servicemembers and military family dependents still have out of pocket costs, placing barriers between servicemembers and their health care that is not present for most civilians and can lead to women postponing or foregoing basic preventive care.
Women play an essential role in the U.S. military, currently making up more than 17 percent of all active duty and reserve members of the Armed Forces, and half of all beneficiaries of the TRICARE program. According to DOD estimates, 95 percent of all women serving are of reproductive age. Research has shown that active duty servicemembers of reproductive age have a rate of unplanned pregnancy that is 60 percent higher than the general population, which invariably impacts military readiness. The studies have also shown that servicewomen face unique challenges accessing their preferred method of contraception and family planning counseling, especially when deployed.
Specifically, Rep. Speier’s Access to Contraception for Servicemembers and Dependents Act would:
- Require that all women who receive health care through the military are treated the same as civilian women and have access to all forms of FDA-approved contraception and family planning counselling services with no health insurance co-pay;
- Require the Department of Defense to develop a comprehensive family planning education program for all servicemembers to be mandatory during their first year or service, ensuring that military families have the information necessary to make informed family planning decisions; and
- Enhance access to emergency contraception for survivors of military sexual assault.
Rep. Speier’s bill was endorsed by numerous women’s health organizations, including Power to Decide and the Center for Reproductive Rights.
“Birth control is basic preventive health care. For military servicemembers and their families, it is critical to ensuring military readiness. Thanks to Rep. Speier’s leadership, we’re one step closer to ensuring that all servicemembers have the family planning education and coverage to choose the birth control method that best meets their needs. Information is power, and the inclusion of these provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act will make our armed forces stronger,” said Ginny Ehrlich, CEO of Power to Decide.
“Servicemembers—who have committed their lives to serving our country—deserve nothing less than equal and affordable access to comprehensive contraceptive services for themselves and their families,” said Sara Outterson, Senior Federal Legislative Counsel of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “With the vast majority of servicewomen being of reproductive age, the benefits of expanding coverage of contraception and family planning services for those who rely on the military for their health care couldn’t be clearer.”
“We are incredibly pleased that Rep. Speier’s provisions from the Access to Contraception for Servicemembers and Dependents Act have been included in the NDAA. Military servicemembers and their families sacrifice to protect our country, they shouldn’t have to pay more for their birth control than those with private insurance coverage," said Gretchen Borchelt, Vice President for Reproductive Rights and Health, National Women's Law Center. "We applaud Rep. Speier and all of the other Members who have worked tirelessly to ensure basic fairness in contraceptive coverage for servicemembers and dependents.”
Other endorsing groups include: the American Civil Liberties Union, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Catholics for Choice, Guttmacher Institute, Jacobs Institute of Women's Health, MomsRising, NARAL Pro-Choice America, National Council of Jewish Women, National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, National Health Law Program, National Institute for Reproductive Health (NIRH), National Network of Abortion Funds, National Organization for Women, National Partnership for Women & Families, National Women's Health Network, Not Without Black Women, People For the American Way, Physicians for Reproductive Health, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Population Connection Action Fund, Service Women’s Action Network, Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) and URGE: Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity.
A letter of support can be read here.
Rep. Speier first introduced this legislation in the 113th Congress, then again in the 114th and 115th.
Rep. Speier’s bill is cosponsored by 89 colleagues: Reps. Kathleen M. Rice (NY-04), Gwen Moore (WI-04), Bill Foster (IL-11), Steve Cohen (TN-09), David Cicilline (RI-01), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Rosa DeLauro (CT-03), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23), Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Judy Chu (CA-27), Marc Veasey (TX-33), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-At large), Jamie Raskin (MD-08), Ruben Gallego (AZ-07), Suzan DelBene (WA-01), Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-03), Diana DeGette (CO-01), Doris Matsui (CA-06), Rick Larsen (WA-02), Mark Pocan (WI-02), Ami Bera (CA-07), Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-09), Mark Takano (CA-41), James A. Himes (CT-04), Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), David E. Price (NC-04), Jerrold Nadler (NY-10), Julia Brownley (CA-26), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Adam B. Schiff (CA-28), Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), James P. McGovern (MA-02), Grace Meng (NY-06), Grace F. Napolitano (CA-32), Theodore E. Deutch (FL-22), Peter Welch (VT-At large), Deb Haaland (NM-01), Derek Kilmer (WA-06), John Yarmuth (KY-03), Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20), Peter DeFazio (OR-04), Brad Sherman (CA-30), Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40), Tim Ryan (OH-13), Pete Aguilar (CA-31), Dina Titus (NV-01), Scott H. Peters (CA-52), Jimmy Panetta (CA-20), Bobby L. Rush (IL-01), Betty McCollum (MN-04), Ann M. Kuster (NH-02), Eric Swalwell (CA-15), Danny Heck (WA-10), Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18), Kathy Castor (FL-14), Al Lawson, Jr. (FL-05), Alan S. Lowenthal (CA-47), Donald M. Payne (NJ-10), Chellie Pingree (ME-01), Joseph D. Morelle (NY-25), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Omar Ilhan (MN-05), Nydia Velázquez (NY-07), Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), Katherine Clark (MA-05), Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-02), Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), Jim Cooper (TN-05), Lizzie Fletcher (TX-07), Karen Bass (CA-37), Tony Cárdenas (CA-29), Gilbert R. Cisneros, Jr. (CA-39), Katie Hill (CA-25), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Robin L. Kelly (IL-02), Susan Wild (PA-07), Anthony G. Brown (MD-04), Chris Pappas (NH-01), Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-05), Albio Sires (NJ-08), Jared Golden (ME-02), Lois Frankel (FL-21), Nita Lowey (NY-17), Susie Lee (NV-03), Jesús G. "Chuy" García (IL-04), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Veronica Escobar (TX-16), Brenda L. Lawrence (MI-14).