On Wednesday, Representative Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA) was named to the Annual Defense Bill Conference Committee. The announcement follows her leading role in the national debate on service member reproductive care, where she urged support for the Pentagon’s existing policy that allows servicewomen stationed in states without available abortion care to take leave and travel for the procedure.
The Annual Defense Bill Conference Committee
The Annual Defense Bill Conference Committee is a pivotal part of the legislative process, responsible for resolving disagreements on a particular bill. In this case, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which is the annual defense bill. The committee comprises members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, who come together to discuss and negotiate the final version of the bill.
Houlahan’s Advocacy for Service Member Reproductive Care
In the wake of being chosen for the committee, Houlahan led a debate supporting the Pentagon’s current policy that permits servicewomen to take leave and travel for abortion care. This policy is under threat due to section 716 of the House bill, which aims to overturn it. Houlahan’s stance is clear: she believes in standing up for the rights of service members and military families and fighting against assaults on reproductive freedom.
In her remarks, she pointed out that many service members joined the armed forces before the overturning of Roe v. Wade last June, with the understanding that they would receive comprehensive, high-quality health care services regardless of their location. This includes access to abortion care.
The Current Scenario and Its Implications
Houlahan highlighted the current situation, where 14 states have enacted outright abortion bans, with seven more implementing partial bans and six others attempting but being stopped by the courts. She noted that approximately 120,000 service members are stationed in Texas, a state with stringent anti-choice laws and one of the worst maternal health outcomes for women in the nation.
Houlahan’s argument emphasized that women in states with abortion bans are nearly three times more likely to die during pregnancy, childbirth, or shortly after giving birth. This fact alone raises serious concerns about the safety and well-being of servicewomen stationed in these states.
The Impact on Service Members and Military Families
Nearly half of service members no longer have access to abortion care, which also impacts their families. Houlahan asserted that no service member should have to accept a reality where they could die as a result of the anti-choice state laws where they are stationed.
She also shared the story of Amanda Zurawski, an active-duty personnel in Texas, who nearly died from sepsis due to restrictions imposed by Texas law when she was 18 weeks pregnant and her water broke.
Houlahan Remains Steadfast
In conclusion, Houlahan expressed her commitment to ensuring that servicewomen and military families can make their own health care choices. She also criticized the actions of a single U.S. Senator who is blocking over 300 military promotions because of his adamant stance against trusting women in uniform with reproductive health care decisions.
As she moves forward in her role on the Annual Defense Bill Conference Committee, Houlahan remains steadfast in her advocacy for the rights and freedoms of service members, particularly concerning reproductive care.