Military Service Members and Their Spouses Could Access Abortion Services No Matter Which U.S. State They’re Stationed In Under Bill Introduced by Cantwell

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) joined 29 Senate colleagues to introduce the Protecting Service Members and Military Families’ Access to Health Care Act, legislation that would codify the Department of Defense’s February 16, 2023, policy to ensure service members and their families can access non-covered reproductive health care – including abortion services – regardless of the state in which they are stationed.

The Protecting Service Members and Military Families’ Access to Health Care Act would:

  1. Allow service members to access non-covered reproductive health care through an administrative absence, to prevent loss of accrued leave and with full pay;
  2. Allow a service member to accompany a spouse or dependent who receives non-covered reproductive health care through an administrative absence;
  3. Provide a service member, or their dependent, access to travel and transportation allowances to receive non-covered reproductive health care (note: this does not include payment for the reproductive care services); and
  4. Ensure the protection of the privacy of the service member requesting administrative absence in order to access or accompany a spouse or dependent accessing non-covered reproductive health care.

Full text of the legislation is available HERE.

In March, Sen. Cantwell joined a group of 35 Senate colleagues in a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, underscoring the serious national security imperatives tied to providing U.S. service members access to protected leave for abortion and reproductive health care services.

The Senators wrote, in part: “Women service members, who make up approximately 17% of active duty military, have no say in where they are stationed, even if their duty station is in a state that severely limits or restricts access to abortion or other critical reproductive health services. It is unacceptable that service members or their dependents should face limited or no access to abortion care simply because of where they are stationed as part of their service to the United States.”

Sen. Cantwell is a staunch defender of abortion rights for all Americans, including those who rely on military benefits or benefits provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs for their health care.

In April, Sen. Cantwell joined Democratic Senate colleagues, veterans, and reproductive rights groups at a press conference to oppose Republicans’ attempt to strip reproductive care from veterans and their families.

Sen. Cantwell intensified her push to protect health care access nationwide since the Supreme Court’s decision to rule against abortion access in Dobbs v. Jackson last year.

  • In June 2022, after a leaked draft opinion revealed the Supreme Court’s plans to overturn the established precedent set by Roe v. Wade, Sen. Cantwell cosponsored the My Body, My Data Act to protect personal reproductive health data.
  • In July 2022, following a meeting with health care providers at the University of Washington Medical Center, Sen. Cantwell cosponsored the Freedom to Travel for Health Care Act to ban anti-choice states from penalizing or prosecuting health care providers that offer reproductive services in states where abortion care is legal.
  • Also in July 2022, Sen. Cantwell cosponsored the Right to Contraception Act, which would codify the right to contraception access established by the Supreme Court ruling Griswold v. Connecticut.
  • In March 2023, Sen. Cantwell joined Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) in reintroducing the Women’s Health Protection Act and hosting a roundtable discussion on the path forward to defend Americans’ reproductive rights.
  • In April 2023, Sen. Cantwell joined 25 Senate Democratic colleagues to introduce the Let Doctors Provide Reproductive Health Care Act, which would ban anti-choice states from restricting or preventing health care providers from performing legal abortions.
  • Also in April 2023, Sen. Cantwell joined hundreds of her Democratic colleagues in filing amicus briefs before the U.S. Supreme Court and Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals supporting the Biden Administration’s appeals of Texas federal district court and Fifth Circuit rulings which would restrict availability to mifepristone. After the Supreme Court stayed the original district court ruling, Sen. Cantwell joined an amicus brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, urging the Court to reverse the district court’s stay on the FDA’s more than 20-year-old approval of mifepristone.  The Fifth Circuit is scheduled to hear additional arguments in the case tomorrow, Wednesday, May 17.