As you may have heard, Congress is in the process of finalizing the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The bill includes a big win that we are excited about: twelve weeks of paid parental leave for federal workers (which is a great first move and reflects the growing momentum in support of developing a national, comprehensive paid leave program for all). But, you may not have heard that several important birth control provisions did not make the final cut in the bill. And we are definitely not happy about that.
Right now, families who rely on the military for health care coverage have to pay out of pocket for their birth control depending on where they access it. There is an easy legislative fix for this problem, as proposed in Senator Shaheen’s and Representative Speier’s bill, the Access to Contraception for Servicemembers and Dependents Act. They have been fighting to get that fix into the NDAA for years. That’s why we were thrilled when the provision was included in both the House and Senate versions of the NDAA this year because that reflected broad congressional support for this common-sense provision.
We were also rooting for two additional provisions that were included in the House-passed version of the NDAA, including one that ensures access to emergency contraception for survivors of sexual assault who seek treatment at military treatment facilities and another that would improve family planning education for all members of the military. All of these provisions just make sense and we know the public also thinks so, as strong a majority of voters want people to have access to birth control when they need it.
But unfortunately, these provisions didn’t make it into the final bill. We aren’t happy about this because birth control is basic, preventive health care that folks shouldn’t have to go without it because of cost barriers.
So we are going to do about this? The same thing we do with any setback. We are going to keep fighting, keep going, and keep believing. Because we know folks need this and this is a fight that’s worth fighting.