Bennet, Hickenlooper, Shaheen Introduce Bill to Protect U.S. Service Members' Access to Protected Leave for Reproductive Health Care Services

Last Night, Bennet Delivered Remarks on the Senate Floor For a Fifth Time to Defend Service Members’ Access to Reproductive Health Care

Video of Bennet’s Remarks Last Night HERE

Washington, D.C. — Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper joined U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) to introduce the Protecting Service Members and Military Families’ Access to Health Care Act. This legislation would codify the Department of Defense’s (DoD) February 2023 policy that ensures service members and their families can access non-covered reproductive health care, including abortion services and Assisted Reproductive Technology like in vitro fertilization, regardless of the state in which they are stationed. After the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, 40 percent of active duty service women face limited or no access to reproductive care.

“American service members and their families deserve access to safe reproductive health care, no matter where they are stationed. As states continue to pass laws that restrict abortion access and threaten doctors with lawsuits and jail time for providing abortion care, this bill protects access to reproductive care for those who are serving our country and their families,” said Bennet. “They signed up to defend our rights and we need to defend theirs.”

“Our service members put their lives on the line for our freedom. Their freedom to access reproductive health care shouldn’t be restricted based on where they’re sent to serve,” said Hickenlooper.

“The onslaught of anti-women laws enacted across our country since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade have imperiled women’s access to comprehensive health care services, including abortion. Among those most vulnerable to these dangerous laws are servicewomen and military families, who have no choice over where they are stationed and what state laws may govern women’s bodies. That’s why it is paramount that Congress act to enshrine current Department of Defense policy to protect servicewomen and military families and provide them necessary leave for reproductive health care services,” said Shaheen. “It’s shameful that Republicans have pushed Congress to this point – that we need to safeguard paid leave so military personnel and their loved ones can seek out the health care they need. The attacks on women waged by Republicans are putting women’s lives at risk, and in this case, also compromising military readiness. Servicewomen should not be put in this position in the first place. I’ll do everything I can to mitigate the impact they may feel from these extreme policies and ensure their health and safety comes first.” 

In March, the senators urged Department of Defense (DoD) Secretary Lloyd Austin to focus on the fundamental connection between our military’s readiness and ensuring that women in the Armed Services have access to reproductive health care. In that letter, the senators also called for DoD to consider abortion access in major personnel and basing decisions.

Specifically, this bill would:

  • Allow service members to access non-covered reproductive health care through an administrative absence, to prevent loss of accrued leave and with full pay; 
  • Allow a service member to accompany a spouse or dependent who receives non-covered reproductive health care through an administrative absence;
  • Provide a service member, or their dependent, access to travel and transportation allowances to receive non-covered reproductive health care (this does not include payment for the reproductive care services); and
  • 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.

Since March, Bennet has defended access to reproductive health care for military service members, and their families on five separate occasions – including just last week and last night.

The Protecting Service Members and Military Families’ Access to Health Care Act is supported by the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the National Women’s Law Center, VoteVets, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the Service Women’s Action Network, Vet Voice Foundation, Power to Decide, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, and the National Partnership for Women and Families.

In addition to Bennet, Hickenlooper, and Shaheen, the bill is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), John Fetterman (D-Pa.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Angus King (I-Maine), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Ma.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). 

The text of the bill is available HERE.