By Robyn Gordon
This week, Senator Al Franken (D-MN) introduced the Compassionate Care for Servicewomen Act, co-sponsored by Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME). This legislation would require that emergency contraception, also know as Plan B or the “morning-after” pill, be carried at every military healthcare facility. Senator Franken explained in his introduction to the bill that while emergency contraception is more widely available to women serving on domestic posts, it is less accessible to women stationed overseas. Senator Franken has a history of standing up for women who work for the Defense Department. In October 2009 he sponsored an amendment to the 2010 Defense Appropriations bill that would have given female military contractors access to the criminal justice system for cases of sexual assault, battery, and discrimination.
Currently, about 350,000 women serve in the American military, yet military bases are not required to stock emergency contraception, which can prevent pregnancy after sex. The Compassionate Care for Servicewomen Act would require that military pharmacists offer emergency contraception to servicewomen without a prescription, just as anyone over the age of seventeen in the United States can obtain this form of birth control without a prescription as allowed by the Food and Drug Administration. Presently, military servicewomen face inconsistent access to emergency birth control, even while they can be threatened with courts martial should their primary form of birth control fail, should they become victims of sexual abuse, or should they fail to use contraception and consequently become pregnant. Additionally, military facilities are not allowed to perform abortions under federal law.
Senator Franken’s Compassionate Care for Servicewomen Act would likely be examined as an amendment to the defense authorization bill, as his amendment to the appropriations bill was in October. In the meantime, please urge your Congressperson to support the Compassionate Care for Servicewomen Act to ensure that emergency contraception is available to women at every military base!