Lawmakers Introduce Legislation to Lift Restrictions on DoD Funds, Facilities Being Used for Abortions

US Capitol© Gagan Cambow / Pexels / Canva

On Friday, Representatives Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA), Sara Jacobs (D-CA), and Marilyn Strickland (D-WA) and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced the Military Access to Reproductive Care and Health (MARCH) for Military Servicemembers Act, or the MARCH for Military Servicemembers Act. The bicameral legislation would amend the current U.S. Code to allow the Department of Defense (DoD) to use available funds and facilities to perform abortions.

“I hear my Republican colleagues talk about how much they trust our service members with making decisions that protect the lives of their fellow service members and ultimately the lives of all Americans, yet many of those same colleagues believe that we cannot trust service members and their families to decide if, how, and when to have children. That is hypocrisy in its highest form.” said Rep. Chrissy Houlahan. “Access to all forms of health care, including abortion, in the military is about freedom – our military families sacrifice so much for us, yet too many of my colleagues have decided that members of our armed forces should not have something as fundamental as bodily autonomy and reproductive freedom.

Discussing the importance of military readiness, Houlahan added: “Access to abortion is also a matter of military readiness. To be ready to fight tomorrow’s wars, we must recruit and retain the brightest minds and fiercest fighters this country has to offer. We don’t do that by telling service women, spouses, and their families they can’t seek reproductive care – care that is widely available to their civilian counterparts. I’m introducing the MARCH Act alongside Congresswomen Jacobs, Strickland and Senator Gillibrand because we trust in our military, and they should trust in us as well.”

“Our service members put their lives on the line to defend our country, and like every American, they should have access to safe, legal reproductive health services,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “As a result of the Dobbs decision, our troops’ ability to receive health care services now depends on where they are sent. The MARCH for Servicemembers Act will protect the constitutional right of our nation’s military personnel to make decisions about their bodies, lives, and futures. I will continue fighting to ensure that reproductive freedom is a fundamental right for our service members.”

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“Our service members volunteered to serve our country – not to give up their reproductive rights,” said Congresswoman Sara Jacobs. “While there have always been steep barriers to getting this care, it’s even more difficult in the post-Roe era for our service members to take enough time off work, travel thousands of miles, and pay out of pocket to receive the care they need. That’s why I’m so proud to co-lead the MARCH for Servicemembers Act, which would lift harmful restrictions and allow the military to provide abortions and coverage for them. Empowering and supporting our service members to make their own health care decisions is key for living our values and ensuring our military readiness.”

“Abortion care is healthcare, and we have a duty to ensure that all women, including those wearing the uniform, can exercise their constitutional right to receive access to safe and legal abortion,” said Rep. Marilyn Strickland. “Since Roe v. Wade was overturned, MAGA extremists have attacked and stripped away the right to reproductive freedom. I’m proud to lead the MARCH for Servicemembers Act, ensuring that the Department of Defense will protect and provide servicemembers and their families access to reproductive healthcare, wherever they are stationed.”

The legislation is also endorsed by various organizations, including:

  • American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG)
  • American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM)
  • Center for Reproductive Rights
  • NARAL Pro-Choice America
  • National Partnership for Women and Family
  • National Women’s Law Center (NWLC)
  • Physicians for Reproductive Health
  • Planned Parenthood Federation of America
  • Service Women’s Action Network

“Currently, the U.S. military health system supports approximately 1.62 million people of reproductive age who may need abortion care while insured through the military health system, including servicemembers and dependents,” said ACOG Interim CEO and Chief of Clinical Practice, Health Equity, and Quality Christopher Zahn, MD, FACOG. “ACOG is proud to endorse the MARCH for Servicemembers Act, reintroduced today by Representative Chrissy Houlahan and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, which would repeal the bans on military funding and use of facilities for abortion care. Allowing military facilities and funds to be used to provide abortion will ensure that servicemembers have access to the full spectrum of reproductive health care.”

“In just one year after the Dobbs decision, we are witnessing attack after attack on access to reproductive care,” said Michael Thomas, MD, ASRM President. “Expanding access to reproductive care for servicemembers is more important now than ever. Abortion access is part of reproductive health care, and it is long overdue that service members have access to the full spectrum of reproductive health care, which is why the MARCH Act is so important. We applaud Rep. Houlahan and Sen. Gillibrand for the reintroduction of this legislation and encourage Congress to do everything in its power to give service members access to all reproductive health care options.”

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“Servicemembers and their dependents shouldn’t have to fight to access the health care they need. In this moment, one year since the Supreme Court overturned Roe and with a public health crisis for abortion on our hands, it is more urgent than ever to eliminate the unconscionable bans on abortion for servicemembers and their loved ones,” said Katherine Gillespie, Acting Director, Federal Policy & Advocacy at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “We applaud Congresswoman Houlahan and her cosponsors for introducing the MARCH Act and urge immediate action on this bill to protect the right of servicemembers and their dependents to make the health care decisions that are best for themselves.”

“Everybody should have the freedom to access the abortion care they need, including servicemembers,” said NARAL Pro-Choice America President Mini Timmaraju. “We’re grateful to Rep. Houlahan and Sen. Gillibrand for leading the charge to help make this a reality. As anti-abortion extremists continue to enforce bans and find new ways to roll back our reproductive freedoms, expanding abortion access for servicemembers no matter where they live, is more important than ever.”

“With the loss of the constitutional right to abortion and state lawmakers decimating abortion access across the country, our military families face significant barriers to care. Service members – who often cannot choose where they are stationed – need access to abortion without barriers and through the healthcare system that was promised to them,” said Jackii Wang, Senior Legislative Analyst at NWLC. “That’s why we strongly support the MARCH Act, a bill that would eliminate federal bans on abortion in the military. We thank our champions in Congress for introducing legislation in this critical moment that commits to a future where all people, including service members and their loved ones, can better access abortion care in order to live a safe and healthy life.”

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“No matter where someone lives or where they receive their care, people are deserving of comprehensive and compassionate sexual and reproductive health care,” said Dr. Jamila Perritt, President and CEO of Physicians for Reproductive Health. “This should always include abortion care. Physicians for Reproductive Health is excited to support the March Act to ensure that people living on military bases can access abortion care where they live, without financial barrier.”

“There should be no debate: service members deserve access to the full range of reproductive health care services, including abortion care,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, President and CEO, Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “As anti-abortion politicians continue to attack our rights in states across the country, the MARCH Act puts service members and their families first by eliminating obstacles to basic health care for those who receive care through the military. We applaud Rep. Houlahan and Sen. Gillibrand for re-introducing this critical legislation that would significantly improve access to abortion for service members and their families, no matter where they are stationed. It shouldn’t matter what zip code you live in, how much money you make, or what insurance you use — everyone deserves access to abortion.”

“Military people have lived under harmful laws and rules related to reproductive services for far too long. Now the obstacles to safe, dignified, and affordable health care for them and their families are growing and will be even more of a hardship if some in Congress have their way. The Service Women’s Action Network applauds Representative Houlahan and her cosponsors for putting forward the March Act,” said Director of Government Relations, Lorry Fenner (Colonel, USAF Retired). “Military women should be able to focus on readiness rather than having to spend their time seeking the quality medical care they’ve earned.”

Read the full text of the legislation here.

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