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Dem bill would give troops free birth control

A California Democrat has introduced a bill that gives women in the armed forces access to birth control and counseling with no health insurance copay.

“We owe female servicemembers the same access to contraception and family planning services as the women they fight to protect," Rep. Jackie Speier said in a statement.

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Speier noted that recent studies show that female service members have a 50 percent higher rate of unplanned pregnancy than the general population.

They also face unique challenges in accessing contraception and family planning counseling, especially when deployed in foreign countries, she said.

The bill has 65 co-sponsors in the House — all Democrats. Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenOvernight Defense: Pentagon details military construction projects getting .2B restored from wall funds | Biden chooses former commander to lead Navy | Bill seeks to boost visa program for Afghans who helped US Senate bill would add visas, remove hurdles to program for Afghans who helped US White House briefed on bipartisan infrastructure deal but says questions remain MORE (D-N.H.) introduced a version in the Senate Thursday morning.

The bill comes as the Pentagon is studying how to integrate women into all military jobs, after the Obama administration lifted the ban on women serving in direct combat, but allowing for some exceptions.

Speier's bill, introduced Wednesday, would "align" the military's healthcare insurance program, Tricare, with the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

"While the ACA guarantees civilian women coverage of women’s health preventive services, such as access to generic FDA-approved contraception and counseling without cost sharing, this policy does not apply to many servicewomen and dependents covered through TRICARE," the statement said.

Pro-choice and women's rights groups lauded the bill and called for its quick passage.

"Currently servicewomen do not have access to the reproductive health care and education they need and this bill will help meet the health needs of the entire force, including servicewomen, and is critical to the military’s ability to accomplish its mission," said Erica Hunt, Service Women’s Action Network interim CEO, in a statement with Speier.

Ilyse Hogue, President of NARAL Pro-Choice America said in the statement, "The women who put their lives on the line to serve our country deserve to have the same access to contraception and family planning as the rest of us."