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Alumna Helps Advance Rights of Women in Uniform

January 22, 2013

Passage of an amendment President Obama signed into law in early January to extend health care services to women in uniform resulted in part from the efforts of Class of 2010 alumna Elayne Weiss.

On Jan. 3, Obama signed FY13 National Defense Authorization Act, which included a provision that extended abortion coverage to rape and incest survivors who are servicewomen or their dependents.

The American Civil Liberties Union, where Weiss works as a legislative assistant in Washington, D.C., fought hard for that provision, introduced by U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire.

Previously, the Department of Defense only provided abortion coverage for servicewomen whose health was in jeopardy.

In other words, Weiss noted, women who risked their lives for the country received fewer health care benefits than most federal employees and women covered under Medicaid.

“My boss and I developed a campaign to build support for the amendment on (Capitol) Hill and in the public,” Weiss said. “We recruited retired military leaders and naval captains to come and advocate on behalf of the Shaheen Amendment.”

The campaign, which entailed a year of grueling work for Weiss, garnered key support from figures including former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and former Secretary of State Colin Powell, former Lt .Gen. Robert G. Gard of the U.S. Army and former Lt. Gen. Arlen Jameson of the Air Force.

“Military people really came to respect us,” Weiss said, adding that she was inspired to meet them as well. “I met the first woman helicopter pilot in the Navy and the first three-star female Marine general. I love how this job has given me the opportunity to meet all these amazing, trail-blazing women.”