Office of Rep. Marilyn Strickland announcement.
Congresswoman Marilyn Strickland (WA-10), a leader in the Pro-Choice Caucus, led the introduction of the Expanding Access to Fertility Care for Servicemembers and Dependents Act, which would expand TRICARE coverage to make Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) services available to all active-duty servicemembers (including the Reserve and National Guard) and dependents – regardless of service-connection requirements, sex, gender, sexual orientation, or marital status of the servicemember. This bill has been endorsed by the Center for Reproductive Rights and Modern Military Association of America. The legislation is cosponsored by Representatives Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-at-large), Ayanna Pressley (MA-7), Mark Takano (CA-41), and Carolyn Maloney (NY-12). (Please find the bill text at this link.)
“Answering the call to serve often means making a great number of sacrifices for your country. Being able to start a family should not be one of them. My bill, the Expanding Access to Fertility Care for Servicemembers and Dependents Act, removes current barriers in TRICARE and helps ensure that all servicemembers can access the fertility care they deserve to start a family,” said Congresswoman Strickland.
“All servicemembers deserve equitable access to infertility care without discrimination. The Expanding Access to Fertility Care for Servicemembers and Dependents Act is an important step toward that goal. This Act would remove legal barriers to infertility care for active duty servicemembers that render many of them ineligible for coverage, including single servicemembers, servicemembers in same-sex partnerships, and servicemembers impacted by unexplained infertility. This Act would also bring us closer to the day when all servicemembers have equitable access to comprehensive infertility care that helps them reach their goal of building a family,” said Karla Torres, Senior Human Rights Counsel, Center for Reproductive Rights.
According to the New York Times, one of the first issues that service members struggling with infertility face is insurance coverage. TRICARE currently pays for assisted-reproductive procedures if a loss in reproductive ability is a result of a service-connected injury. Otherwise, servicemembers must pay out of pocket.
Even for those who are eligible for TRICARE fertility care, a report by Service Women’s Action Network found that women who were not straight or not married seemed to receive very mixed infertility care, and in some cases were denied infertility treatments. According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, an estimated 16 percent of female servicemembers and four percent of male servicemembers identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual. Additionally, unmarried servicemembers represent approximately 43 percent of active duty servicemembers, 52 percent of National Guard and Reserve members, and 40 percent of veterans.
The bill expands TRICARE to cover Assisted Reproductive Technology services for all active-duty servicemembers and dependents, ensuring that service-connection, sex, gender, sexual orientation, and marital status are not barriers to building a family.
Currently, TRICARE limits coverage to certain assisted reproductive services when medically necessary and combined with natural conception. To be eligible for these, servicemembers must prove they: 1) are active duty, 2) have a serious illness or injury while on active duty, 3) lost their natural reproductive ability due to that illness or injury, 4) can provide their own genetic material to get pregnant, and 5) have a lawful spouse who can also provide their own genetic material. These current narrow requirements put assisted reproductive services out of reach for our servicemembers and their spouses who are ineligible to receive care. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the average cost per IVF cycle can range between $12,000 to $17,000. Additionally, under TRICARE’s requirements, servicemembers who are unmarried, in same-sex marriages, and cannot prove that a service-connected illness or injury caused their infertility are automatically excluded from being eligible to receive care. This legislation would eliminate these exclusions.
Congresswoman Strickland is a strong advocate for reproductive rights in Congress, a freshman leader in the Pro-Choice Caucus and a member of the Black Maternal Health Caucus. In November, Stricklandled a letter encouraging the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to reduce barriers to continuous access to birth control by requiring insurance companies to cover, without cost-sharing, a 12-month supply of birth control. In April, Strickland co-led the introduction of the Access to Contraception for Servicemembers and Dependents Act, legislation to ensure military families receive the quality reproductive health care they deserve. In April, Strickland also led Pro-Choice Caucus members on a letter to advance and protect reproductive health rights in the US and across the globe. In March, Strickland co-led the introduction of the Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act, legislation to repeal the Helms Amendment and advance reproductive and economic freedom and equity worldwide. A member of the Black Maternal Health Caucus, Strickland is an original cosponsor of the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021 and the Healthy MOM Act, legislation which comprehensively addresses the maternal health crisis in America.