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Reproductive Health Services in the Military: It’s Time to Stop Denying Servicewomen The Basic Rights For Which They Fight

1:46 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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Written by Kelsey Holt and Kate Grindlay for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

At the end of last year the Senate blocked the Shaheen Amendment to the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, which would have restored insurance coverage of abortion for women serving in the military who are raped—giving military women the same benefits that federal employees, women enrolled in Medicaid, and women in federal prison receive.

The lack of support for this bill is shocking given the high rates of sexual assault and rape in the military that put the nearly 300,000 women serving in the US military (97 percent of whom are of reproductive age) at increased risk for unintended pregnancy. While the Shaheen Amendment would have been an important step forward in ensuring comprehensive health care for servicewomen, our research at Ibis Reproductive Health has documented a number of other gaps in access to reproductive health care that also need to be addressed. We urge policymakers in 2012 to put politics aside and support the women serving our country through policies that meet their needs and promote their health and well-being.

Servicewomen need access to abortion in military medical facilities to ensure safe, confidential, and timely access to care

In addition to military insurance not covering abortions except in cases where the servicewoman’s life is in danger, current federal policy also prohibits abortions from being performed in military facilities overseas even if a woman pays for it herself, with narrow exceptions for life endangerment, rape, and incest.

In a recent study we conducted with military women and dependents seeking abortion during overseas deployment, women with an unintended pregnancy overwhelmingly wanted to complete their tour of duty and continue serving their country, and did not want to interrupt their service by returning home because of the pregnancy. The majority, however, were stationed in countries where abortion is prohibited, such as Iraq and Afghanistan, where abortion is banned except to save the life of the woman. Read the rest of this entry →

STOKING FIRE: Ultra-Conservative Doctrine May Be the Reason for Unreported Sexual Crimes in the Military

10:29 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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Written by Eleanor J. Bader for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

The cliché tells us that war is hell, but for female enlistees, the war on the domestic front—within their units–trumps that of the battlefield. In fact, a recent Veteran’s Administration survey revealed statistics that should have turned the military on its warmongering head: 30 percent of female vets told the interviewers that they had been assaulted by a male colleague and/or supervisor. Worse, 14 percent reported having been gang raped and 20 percent reported having been raped more than once.

Shockingly, these figures may be low since under-reporting of sexual crimes is known to be endemic.

Part of the blame for the reluctance to report rests with an unsympathetic military chaplaincy, one of the few places soldiers, sailors, reservists, national guardians, and marines can turn for counseling. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 20 percent of today’s 3000 military chaplains were trained at the ultraconservative Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary in Lynchburg, Virginia. Founded by Rev. Jerry Falwell and Elmer Towns in 1971, the school bills itself as the world’s largest seminary, something it attributes to its “conservative doctrinal position, its sound grounding in Bible teachings, and its reflection of core Christian essentials.” The school’s website clears up any definitional murkiness: “Liberty is committed to changing the entire world for Jesus Christ, first changing the world with its students, then equipping them to change the world around them.”

While most of its students are undoubtedly attracted to this mission, others attend Liberty because tuition is low: $1900 a term for residential students and $2200 for distance learners. During the 2011-2012 year, nearly 9000 students from 46 countries registered for online classes; of them, more than 1000 hope to complete the 72-credit program and become military chaplains. A severe shortage of armed forces clerics—an article posted on Times Union.com in February 2011 blames the deficiency on the military’s rigid age and physical requirements and on the reluctance of pastors/rabbis/imams to exchange the comforts of home for combat—will likely make this dream come true for many of them.

That this bodes badly for women and the LGBTQ community is a given. Read the rest of this entry →

A “Cure-All” For Rape? Concerned Women For America Not Very Concerned About Women At All

1:08 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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Written by Vicki Saporta for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Tell CWA There’s no ‘Cure-all’ for Rape

This week, while we were busy trying to get military insurance coverage for raped servicewomen, the anti-abortion group Concerned Women for America (CWA), showed us that they aren’t really that concerned about women at all.

In a letter to the Senate opposing the Shaheen amendment, CWA said the amendment would be giving “abortion as a ‘cure-all’” for rape.

This outrageous statement shows just how little CWA knows about how sexual violence affects women.