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