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Senate defense bill, currently being debated on the floor, eliminates funding for program that would give servicemembers access to cryopreservation

Department of Defense announced pilot program in January to give options to servicemembers who have suffered catastrophic injuries from war

Murray: This program is an “important part of our larger work to help the warriors who have sustained grievous injuries achieve their dreams of starting families.” 

“I don’t know how this line got in there. I don’t know who thought it was a good idea. I don’t know why. But what I do know is this, it’s absolutely wrong, and it needs to be fixed.”

(Washington, D.C.) –Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and a long-time advocate for greater fertility options for veterans injured during their service, asked for unanimous consent for a vote on her amendment to restore funding for the Pentagon’s pilot program that allows servicemembers to freeze their eggs or sperm before deployment. This program would give members of the military greater flexibility for family planning in the event they are injured on the battlefield. Sen. Murray offered her amendment this week after discovering that on page 1,455 of the National Defense Authorization Act, $38 million in funding for the program had been zeroed out.

Immediately following Sen. Murray’s request for a vote, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) objected. The final vote on the defense bill is scheduled for Monday night and Senator Murray will keep working with Democrats and Republicans to get this fixed.

Below are Senator Murray’s remarks, Senator McCain’s comments on her amendment, and an image of the line in the bill that Senator Murray is trying to fix.

Key excerpts from Senator Murray’s remarks:

In case any of my colleagues are unaware—a single line—in this massive defense bill, on page 1,455, buried in a funding chart, would zero out a new program intended to help men and women in our military realize their dreams of having a family, even if they go on to suffer catastrophic injuries while fighting on our behalf.”

“I don’t know how this line got in there. I don’t know who thought it was a good idea. I don’t know why. But what I do know is this, it’s absolutely wrong, and it needs to be fixed.”

“Many people here in the Senate are quick to honor our military with their words. But for the men and women who have signed up to fight on our behalf—and are looking ahead to potentially massive sacrifices—we owe them more than that.  We owe them action. We owe them respect. We owe them a shot at their dreams.  And we owe them a fix to in this bill.”

Full text of Senator Murray’s remarks.

“M. President—I came to the floor yesterday to talk about a truly shameful change buried in this bill. A change that would put us on a path to go back on a promise we made to our servicemembers just six months ago. And a change that, if left unfixed, would pull the rug out from men and women in our armed forces who are prepared to make the highest sacrifices for the country they love. 

“M. President—in case any of my colleagues are unaware—a single line—in this massive defense bill, on page 1,455, buried in a funding chart, would zero out a new program intended to help men and women in our military realize their dreams of having a family, even if they go on to suffer catastrophic injuries while fighting on our behalf.

“I don’t know how this line got in there. I don’t know who thought it was a good idea. I don’t know why. But what I do know is this, it’s absolutely wrong, and it needs to be fixed.  M. President—I will give my colleagues just a bit more context.  Six months ago the Pentagon announced a pilot program that would offer servicemembers who are getting ready to deploy an opportunity at cryopreservation. In other words, freezing their eggs or sperm. This new program gave deploying servicemembers not just the ability to have reproductive options in the event they are grievously injured—but also some much deserved peace of mind. It took us one more step toward the promise we made to our servicemembers to support them when they sacrifice so much for us.

“And it meant they don’t have to worry about choosing between defending their country or a chance at a family someday. M. President—this new program was met with widespread praise, and relief. Men and women who were getting ready to be deployed—many of whom were thinking about exploring cryopreservation using their own money, if they could afford it—were assured that their country had their back.

“And while the pilot program wasn’t ground-breaking, these services have long been available in the private sector, and in fact fertility preservation techniques have been used by the British Armed Forces for years, it reflected a basic level of respect for servicemembers who are willing to risk suffering catastrophic injuries on our behalf. And it sent clear message that no matter what happens to them on the battlefield, we are going to be ready to stand with them, with whatever they need.

“M. President—I was hoping that this new program was a step we could build on. A move in the right direction, and an important part of our larger work to help the warriors who have sustained grievous injuries achieve their dreams of starting families. Which is why I was so disturbed when I learned that this bill would move us the other way. It would take this promise we just made to our warriors—and toss it in the trash. It would be a slap in the face to the men and women who serve us so proudly and heroically.  And honestly, it would just be the absolute wrong thing to do.

“M. President, many people here in the Senate are quick to honor our military with their words. But for the men and women who have signed up to fight on our behalf—and are looking ahead to potentially massive sacrifices—we owe them more than that.  We owe them action. We owe them respect. We owe them a shot at their dreams.  And we owe them a fix to in this bill.

“So M. President, I ask unanimous consent that it be in order to offer Murray Amendment 4490.”

Unofficial Transcript of Senator McCain’s Remarks:

“Mr. President, I reluctantly have to object, and that is because there is objection on this side, which I have to honor.  I would like to thank Senator Murray for her advocacy for the people who are serving in our military in uniform, and this is at least an important aspect of military life, and I thank her for that.  I also thank Senator Gillibrand who will speak here in a minute on an issue of great importance to her that for several years now she has been an advocate of this very compelling issue, sexual assaults in the military.  Unfortunately, we have objection to all amendments, and that, in my view, is a great disservice to this body, to the men and women serving in the military and to the American public, because when we are not allowed to debate, whether I happen to agree or disagree with Senator Gillibrand and Senator Murray, they deserve debate and votes, and they’re not getting it because of objections.

I’d like to also point out we’re working on an amendment by Senator Moran, Senator Corker, Senator Gillibrand, Senator Shaheen as well, and I might point out gratuitously that one of the things that I have seen in recent years is an involvement on issues that bring new perspectives from people like Senator Gillibrand, Senator Murray, Senator Ayotte, Senator McCaskill, Senator Fischer, Senator Ernst who brought perspectives, I think, to our committee and to this body that have been very helpful.  So all I can say is Senator Murray, I will fight to get – I will continue to fight to get a vote on your amendment.  Mr. President, I reluctantly object.”

Page 1,455 of NDAA below (Line 220):

 

 

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