The Senate on Tuesday unanimously passed a Department of Defense authorization bill (S 3254) that includes an amendment allowing the military’s health plan to cover abortion care in cases of rape or incest, Reuters reports. The measure also authorizes DOD to provide abortions at military facilities.

Akiba Solomon,’s Gender Matters blogger wrote about intra-military sexual assaults last month. An excerpt from her story is below to provide some history and context:

In 2010 alone, there were at least 19,000 intra-military sexual assaults, according to the Defense Department. Further enhancing the trauma, there remains a ban on military insurance coverage of abortions even in the case of rape and incest.

I haven’t seen sexual assault reports broken down by race. What I can say is that a disproportionate number of servicewomen on active duty are black. They make up a whopping 31 percent of the active-duty population compared to the 15 percent they comprise in the general population. (Fifty three percent of women on active duty are white, compared to 78 percent of female civilians.)

In the coming days or weeks, Congress will take up the National Defense Authorization Act and it has the opportunity to lift the ban on military insurance coverage of abortion in the case of sexual assault. It’s way past time to get rid of class-based restrictions on abortion access, including those for military women and Medicaid recipients via the Hyde Amendment. Now that “women’s issues” are all the electoral rage, we should make that demand, straight no chaser.

The Senate and House (HR 4310) versions of the bill have to be reconciled before a final measure can be sent to President Obama.