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Women in the Military

Defense Bill Ignores Servicewomen's Constitutional Rights

Servicewomen have committed their lives to the defense of our Constitution, but our own government is denying them their constitutionally guaranteed rights. Servicewomen and dependents of servicemembers are currently prohibited from receiving abortion care at military hospitals except in cases where the woman’s life is endangered or the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. Practically, this law could mean that a servicewoman is unable to get an abortion.

Some members of Congress tried to restore our brave servicewomen’s constitutional rights. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would have repealed this unfair ban. Disappointingly, Senator Shaheen’s amendment did not get a floor vote.

The Current Ban Denies Servicewomen and Dependents of Servicemembers the Care They Need Read more »

Good News for Military Servicemembers Who Use Birth Control

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. Read more »

Why Women Should Care About the National Defense Authorization Act of 2015

Congress recently recessed for the rest of the year. One of the bills it passed was the National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2015. The bill included many provisions important to women in the military:

Coverage of Breastfeeding Supplies and Education

The NDAA for FY 2015 requires the TRICARE program to cover breastfeeding supplies and education for military women and women in military families. This legislation represents a huge win for military families and ensures that they have breastfeeding coverage that is similar to the coverage provided in most private health plans. Read more »

A Big Week for Breastfeeding

You may already know that one of the Affordable Care Act’s great new preventive benefits for women is coverage of breastfeeding supports and supplies. Women with health coverage through the new Marketplaces, and many who have coverage through an employer, are now able to get breast pumps and help from a lactation consultant as they learn to breastfeed, deal with breastfeeding problems and, if they choose, return to work – without any out-of-pocket expense! Breastfeeding benefits both moms and babies, and this coverage helps women overcome some of the problems they often encounter as they start breastfeeding or if they go back to work as nursing mothers.

What you may not know is that women in the military and women in military families, who have health coverage through TRICARE, have not been eligible for this new preventive benefit. But this week, just in time for Memorial Day, both houses of Congress have taken big steps towards fixing this problem. Read more »

Being Told "You Can't"

As a kid, and later on in school, I had dreams of becoming a bakery owner, a ballerina, a Hollywood power agent, and the editor-in-chief of the New York Times. Not once did anyone tell me I couldn’t be those things. In fact, I was always told that if I worked hard enough I could achieve any goal.

Realizing dreams sometimes involves more than hard work, but I still believe that if I seize opportunities and apply myself, I’ll reach many of my goals. I credit my optimism to having never been told “you can’t.”

But things may have been different if I had expressed a desire to be a three-star general in the military.

For decades, women in the military were told “you can’t”—not because they didn’t work hard enough or complete the necessary training and gain the relevant experience—but simply because of their gender. This is unfair, but it also works against the best interests of both the military and the country, which benefit by having the most capable soldiers filling positions—regardless of gender. Read more »

A Bad Day for Sexual Assault Victims in Congress

Yesterday, two different Congressional committees voted against protections for sexual assault victims:

  • The House Judiciary Committee, while considering a 20 week abortion ban, voted AGAINST including an exception for victims of rape and incest. During the Committee meeting, Representative Trent Franks joined the long list of abortion opponents who have claimed that the chance of “rape resulting in pregnancy is very low.”
  • The Senate Armed Services Committee, in considering a set of new protections for victims of sexual assault, voted AGAINST a provision to give the responsibility for addressing these crimes to independent prosecutors and away from the chain of command. As you may recall, there have been several very public stories in the last few months of commanders failing to pursue claims of sexual assault and overturning sexual assault convictions. And, even reports that the officers charged with enforcing these laws accused of sexual assault themselves.

It is important to note that these two votes took place in very different contexts – the House vote took place during consideration of a bill designed to limit women’s rights while the Senate vote took place during consideration of a bill that will otherwise strengthen the military’s prevention of and response to sexual assault. Read more »

Unemployment Rate for Female Gulf War-Era II Veterans Even Higher than for Male Veterans

Yesterday the Bureau of Labor Statistics released new data on veterans’ unemployment for 2012. We analyzed the data and found that the unemployment rate for female Gulf War-era II veterans is substantially higher than for male veterans and, unlike the rate for male veterans, did not improve in the past year.

Here are six facts you need to know about unemployment among Gulf War-era II veterans:

  • The overall unemployment rate of Gulf War-era II veterans (those who have served on active duty any time since September 2001) declined to 9.9 percent in 2012 from 12.1 percent in 2011. However, women did not share in the decline in unemployment among Gulf War-era II veterans in 2012 – the unemployment rate for male Gulf War-era II veterans declined to 9.5 percent from 12.0 percent. The unemployment rate of female Gulf War-era II veterans in 2012, 12.5 percent, was essentially unchanged from 2011 (12.4 percent).

Suits: What Does Gender Discrimination Cost?

Haven’t been watching the Suits gender discrimination story arc? Catch up on the first two episodes here and here.

Last Thursday night, the dramatic Suits gender discrimination storyline came to an end, as the Pearson Hardman attorneys discovered an email from the head of Folsom Foods explicating his reason for failing to promote qualified women. It came down to pregnancy: he did not want to give women with powerful positions within his company time off for pregnancy, childbirth, and taking care of their children. In fact, one of the few women who was in such a position had undergone a hysterectomy months before her promotion. Our friends at Pearson Hardman won the day and the defendant company had to pay for a hefty settlement to make up for the discrimination over the years. Hooray!

From calling women “aggressive” and “difficult” in performance reviews to justify their non-promotions, to assuming that women employees would be mothers first and workers second, the head of Folsom Foods relied on some of the oldest stereotypes in the book. These stereotypes are part of the reason why the wage gap has remained stuck, with the typical woman earning 77 cents to the typical man’s dollar, for the past decade. Read more »

New Cases Challenge Women’s Exclusion from Combat

This Tuesday, a group of servicewomen and a non-profit organization filed suit in California against the Secretary of the Department of Defense (DoD), challenging the Department’s prohibition against women in direct ground combat as a violation of the federal equal protection clause. The prohibition is also being challenged in a lawsuit in the District of Columbia. The Center believes the ground combat exclusion, which is not legislative, should be revoked, and all military assignment should be opened to women. Today, women de facto perform the same military jobs as men in many instances without comparable training, recognition, and benefits. They deserve better. Read more »