The House of Representatives and Senate are currently working on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a bill that provides funds for the military. The bill includes provisions that support the health care needs for members of the Armed Services and their dependents.
This year, the House and Senate versions of the bill include provisions that would improve women servicemembers’ access to birth control. It provides for comprehensive counseling and education about contraception. And, the House bill would ensure a woman servicemember has access to the birth control she needs at all times, particularly when she is deployed.
This is good news. It’s good news because studies such as this one suggest that women in the military aren’t getting comprehensive contraceptive counseling in their health care visits and some have problems with refilling prescriptions when deployed. As women are increasingly playing a bigger role in the military, we need to make sure that they are getting the health care they need.
Comprehensive contraceptive counseling is critical in ensuring that each woman has the information she needs to identify the form of contraception that is most appropriate for her. The provisions requiring that a broad range of contraceptive methods be available at military treatment facilities and that women servicemembers are given enough of their method to last deployment ensure that they do not experience any gap in such critical health care.
The family planning provisions that are in the Senate and House NDAAs are taken from a bill that Senator Shaheen and Representative Speier introduced earlier this year, the Access to Contraception for Women Servicemembers and Dependents Act of 2015. It’s thanks to their tireless efforts in advocating for our women servicemembers’ health care needs that these provisions got into the defense bill.
But our work is not done. We have to make sure these great provisions aren’t taken out of the bill. And, after the bill is enacted we have to make sure it is working. We also need to make sure that the other parts of the Access to Contraception for Women Servicemembers and Dependents Act are incorporated in next year’s NDAA.
For the sacrifices our women servicemembers are making for our country, it’s the least we can do.