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Do Military Sexual Assaults Against Men Trump Those Against Women?

7:44 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY

At a Capitol Hill news conference called in May by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) in support of her legislation to address sexual assault in the military, Brian Lewis, a former petty officer in the U.S. Navy, told of how, at the age of 20, he was raped on board a ship by a superior officer, and then drummed out of the service and denied his Veterans Administration benefits when he took his complaint to his commanding officer.

While the Navy never denied the assault took place, according to the Guardian, Lewis’ attacker went unpunished. At the press conference, Lewis said that instead, he suffered retaliation for having made the complaint in the form of a false diagnosis of a personality disorder by a Navy psychiatrist—a diagnosis that led to his separation from the service without benefits.

Lewis’ story is not unlike those told by many military women who suffer sexual assault by members of higher rank, who endure sexual assault during their time in the service at more than five times the rate of men. (Indeed, at the same press conference, Jennifer Norris, a former sergeant in the Air Force Reserve, told of suffering post traumatic stress disorder [PTSD] after enduring several sexual assaults, and then losing her security clearance because of her PTSD diagnosis.)

Despite the higher rate of sexual assault in the military against women, Pentagon statistics estimate a greater number of assaults against men—some 53 percent of all sexual assaults in the military—based on the fact that the services are overwhelmingly male. With the upcoming release of Justice Denied, a documentary that focuses on the stories of men who suffered sexual assault while serving in the armed forces, an emphasis on their stories is moving to the fore. And that’s a good thing for all survivors, one would assume, for it exposes a pervasive culture of sexual predation in the military.

But if a recent New York Times front page story is any indication, attempts are already being made to distinguish the rape experiences of male survivors as inherently worse than women’s, and to continue framing assaults on women in terms of the rapist’s sexual desire, not the same quest for domination that motivates those who assault men.

Given society’s default position in disbelieving the woman who dares to accuse her rapist, advocates for sexual assault victims express the hope that with more men coming forward to tell their stories, the military brass will take the problem—an estimated 26,000 incidents of unwanted sexual contact in a single year, according to a recent Pentagon report—more seriously. Another reason that the generals and admirals have failed to prioritize the problem is that it’s seen as a “women’s problem,” and women comprise a mere 15 percent of the force, Anu Bhagwati, executive director of the Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN), told the Times.

With more men coming forward, she said, “I think it places the onus on the institution when people realize it’s also men who are victims.”

While that may be a sad fact of the way in which assaults on women are considered to be somehow less important, more troubling is this paragraph, from the same New York Times article, by James Dao:

Many sexual assaults on men in the military seem to be a form of violent hazing or bullying, said Roger Canaff, a former New York State prosecutor who helped train prosecutors on the subject of military sexual assault for the Pentagon. “The acts seemed less sexually motivated than humiliation or torture-motivated,” he said.

Note that this guy trains military prosecutors.

What are we to take from that? That assaults against women are the acts of lonely guys who are just looking for a little love? That the motivation for some of the horrendous attacks on women in the military by men, often of higher rank, has nothing to do with a desire to humiliate or torment the women?

Take the case of Navy veteran Trina McDonald, told in the documentary film The Invisible War, who says that in 1989 she was drugged, raped repeatedly, and even dumped in the Bering Sea after an assault. Sounds like something other than sexual motivation there.

Or that of Army veteran Ayana Harrell, who was drugged and gang-raped in 2001, and then, when she told her commanding officer that she was pregnant because of the attack, was told, she says, that it was her own problem.

More recently, there was the 2012 social-media humiliation of a female Navy midshipman who says she was raped by several Naval Academy football players after she passed out at a party.

And the assault last month of a civilian woman in a Virginia mall parking lot by the Air Force lieutenant who, at the time, led that service’s sexual assault prevention unit.

And multiple reports of assaults by military recruiters against young women in the recruitment process, including one that ended in a murder-suicide.

I don’t mean to suggest that sexual assaults sustained by military men are less important or less traumatizing than those endured by women. But I see in the offing an attempt to paint them as more so, and that’s deeply disturbing.

We’re told that men are left with the trauma of questioning their manhood, of not being believed by family members, of the humiliation of the assumption by many that they must have cooperated in some way with the assault. While it may be less likely for a woman to question her sexual identity as the result of an assault, she is usually left to question her own feminine virtue as construed by society, which is a torment unto itself. Each are different, and there’s no way that one sex can assess the other’s experience of sexual assault as particular to gender.

Likewise, no two sexual assaults are completely alike. Some are more brutal than others. But all are profoundly damaging to those who endure them.

I welcome airing the stories of the courageous men who are now coming forward to tell of how they were preyed upon by their brethren in the armed forces. My heart hurts for them, just as it hurts for all of the women who have endured such injustices. And if their coming forward puts more urgency into finally ending this scourge, that’s a good thing, and these men will have done a great service for servicemen and servicewomen alike.

But the framing of their stories must not be construed in such a way as to draw distinctions based on old tropes about the nature of sexual assaults against women, cementing the old saw about “boys being boys” when they prey on women, and something worse when they prey on men.

The military has a predator problem within its ranks—and a traitorous one at that. That the Senate Armed Services Committee, by rejecting Gillibrand’s Military Justice Improvement Act, has chosen to leave the adjudication of these crimes within the chain of command that has allowed them to proliferate is a crime in itself. That the president has remained silent on the chain of command problem is disheartening.

If what it takes lawmakers to do their constitutional duty to protect America’s fighting men and women is the knowledge that roughly one in 100 men in the armed forces suffer sexual assault at the hands of their brother fighters—when, clearly, knowledge of the one in 17 military women who suffer the same didn’t do the trick—then so be it.

But rape is rape. Sexual assault is sexual assault. These are brutal crimes of betrayal designed to humiliate, dominate, and harm the person who is preyed upon, regardless of his or her sex.

Until we get that straight, the road to women’s equality remains strewn with the obstacles sown by history’s purveyors of sex libel.

The Ongoing Battle to Remove Military Sexual Assault Prosecution From the Chain of Command

1:18 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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

As the Senate Armed Services Committee meets Wednesday to take up its version of the Defense Authorization bill, senators will likely devote at least as much verbiage to discussion of sexual assault in the military ranks as they do to the finer points of the Pentagon budget that is the bill’s main focus. But missing from the committee’s final version of the bill will be the one measure that advocates for survivors of sexual assault and rape say is critical to ending the crisis that grips the military: removing the reporting and prosecution of sexual assault cases from the chain of command.

Despite its bipartisan support and 27 co-sponsors, Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), the committee chairman, struck from the bill a measure offered by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) that would have moved the adjudication of all serious crimes (such as murder, rape, and sexual assault) into the hands of independent prosecutors in order to create a safer environment and more impartial judicial process for those who have been the targets of assailants in the military ranks.

Levin made the decision Tuesday, replacing the provisions of Gillibrand’s Military Justice Improvement Act with a measure that simply requires that any command decision not to prosecute a sexual assault case be reviewed by a high-ranking officer. But as demonstrated in at least one recent case—the overturning of the sexual assault conviction of Air Force Lt. Col. James Wilkerson by Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin—the top brass often exhibit the same deference to defendants as commanders lower in rank.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) has condemned Levin’s decision. “They basically embrace the status quo here. It’s outrageous,” she told the New York Times.

As Gillibrand and others noted in a June 4 day-long hearing on sexual assault in the military, victims often don’t come forward because of well-founded fears of reprisal by their commanders. Testimony by victims’ advocates laid out a picture of a landscape on which retaliation against those who report sexual assaults—including being drummed out of the service on the basis of mental-health diagnoses made by military medical personnel—seemed almost as common as the assaults themselves.

Citing a recent Pentagon report that estimated some 26,000 incidents of unwanted sexual contact experienced by members of the military at the hands of others in the ranks, Gillibrand addressed a panel of top military officials: “Of the victims who did report … 62 percent said they received retaliation.”

Of those estimated 26,000 incidents, only 3,300 were reported, and fewer than 200 went to trial.

Most U.S. allies, including the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, and Israel, have altered their command structure to reflect the kind of change that Gillibrand and co-sponsors of her bill seek in the U.S. Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). But the Joint Chiefs of Staff don’t want it, and Levin is not disposed to make them do it, despite the fact that the Constitution places control of the military under the leadership of civilian elected officials.

Among the measures attached to the bill, which allocates the annual budget for the whole of the armed forces, will likely be several that aim to aid members of the military who survive rape and other sexual violence at the hands of their colleagues, measures that victims’ advocates applaud but that only deal with the aftermath of assault.

Proponents of Gillibrand’s measure contend that because it would encourage rape survivors and assault victims to come forward, and would likely result in a higher number of prosecutions, it could change the current military culture marked by rampant predation on lower-ranking members by their superiors.

On June 5, the House Armed Services Committee included in its markup of the bill some 11 amendments designed to address, in some measure, the crisis of sexual assault that has plagued the military for the last 25 years. They include measures to provide services to victims and to prevent commanders from overturning convictions made by military courts. But a change to the chain of command structure, proposed by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), was not among them.

Wednesday morning, news came that a measure co-sponsored by Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) that would form a Special Victims Counsel—a special military lawyer tasked with assisting sexual assault victims throughout the process of adjudicating their reports—in all branches of service had won a thumbs-up from Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Where Are the Women?

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Military Leaders Standing Up for Servicewomen in Support of Shaheen Amendment

1:57 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check


Lieutenant General Ronald R. Blanck, D.O. (Ret.)

Written by the ACLU 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 following distinguished flag officers in the United States Armed Forces have signed a letter of support for the pending Shaheen Amendment to the FY 12 National Defense Authorization Act (S. 1867) that would provide servicewomen and military dependents with abortion coverage in cases of rape and incest.

The letter states as follows:

November 2011

Dear Senators:

We, the undersigned flag officers, write in strong support of the Shaheen Amendment to the FY12 National Defense Authorization Act (S. 1867) that provides abortion coverage for servicewomen and dependents who are victims of rape and incest.
It has been our privilege to treat, care for, or serve alongside the brave men and women of our armed forces and we believe that they deserve the best medical care that our country can provide. We also believe that our women in the military, who serve their country and in many cases risk their lives and safety to preserve our freedoms, should have access to the full range of medical care, including comprehensive reproductive health care.

We are greatly disappointed to learn that, by federal statute, the Department of Defense is barred from providing coverage for abortion care except where a pregnant woman’s life is endangered. Unlike the other federal bans on abortion coverage, the military ban provides no exception for cases of rape and incest. The current policy is unjust and unfair.

Restoring abortion coverage to our military women and family members who are survivors of rape and incest would bring the Department of Defense in line with the policy that governs other federal programs, such as Medicaid or the Federal Employee Health Benefit program. At the very least, our military women deserve the same access to care as civilian women who rely on the federal government for their health care.
Our servicewomen commit their lives to defending our freedoms; Congress should respect their service and sacrifice and provide them with the same level of health care coverage it provides civilians.

Additionally, claims that military physicians would be forced to provide abortions even if they have a religious or moral objection are absolutely false and, in this circumstance, are misdirected. The Shaheen Amendment is about insurance coverage. Moreover, military policy has long provided conscience protections for those military health care professionals who object to abortion – these protections were in effect during the brief period when the private funding ban was lifted in 1993-1995 and remain in effect today.

1. Ronald R. Blanck, DO, Lieutenant General, MC, USA (Ret.), Fenwick Island, DE 19944

2. Robert G. Gard, Jr., Lieutenant General, USA (Ret.), Rockville, MD 20850

3. Claudia J. Kennedy, Lieutenant General, USA (Ret.), Hilton Head Island, SC 29928

4. Harold M. Koenig, MD, Vice Admiral, USN (Ret.), San Diego, CA 92116

5. Donna F. Barbisch, DHA, MPH, Major General, USA (Ret.), Washington, DC 20003

6. Dennis J. Laich, Major General, USA (Ret.), Powell, OH 43065

7. Gale S. Pollock, CRNA, FACHE, FAAN, Major General, USA (Ret.), Falls Church, VA 22041

8. Rabbi Harold L. Robinson, Rear Admiral, CHC, USN (Ret.), Centerville, MA 02632

9. Deborah C. Wheeling, MS, MSN, RN, Major General, Army National Guard (Ret.), Otego, NY 13825

10. Clara Adams-Ender, RN, MS, FAAN, Brigadier General, USA (Ret.), Lake Ridge, VA 22192

11. Evelyn “Pat” Foote, Brigadier General, USA (Ret.), Accokeek, MD 20607

12. Wilma L. Vaught, Brigadier General, USAF (Ret.), Falls Church, VA 22044

Bios of each of the signatories follow below:

Lieutenant General Ronald R. Blanck, D.O. (Ret.) was the 39th Surgeon General of the United States Army (1996 to 2000). He is a doctor of osteopathic medicine and is the only such physician ever appointed Surgeon General of the Army. He was also president of the University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth from 2000 to 2006.

Dr. Blanck began his military career in 1968 as a medical officer and battalion surgeon in Vietnam. He retired 32 years later as the Surgeon General of the US Army and commander of the US Army Medical Command, with more than 46,000 military personnel and 26,000 civilian employees throughout the world.

During his military career, Dr. Blanck also served as commander of Walter Reed Medical Center; first commander of the North Atlantic Region Medical Command; and Director of Professional Services and Chief of Medical Corps Affairs for the US Army Surgeon General. Other assignments included Assistant Dean of Student Affairs at the Uniformed Services University School of Medicine; Chief of the Department of Medicine at Brooke Army Medical Center; Commander, Berlin Army Hospital; and Commander, Frankfurt Regional Army Medical Center.

Dr. Blanck is now is a partner and Vice-Chairman of the Board of Martin, Blanck & Associates, which does health care consulting for the private sector and the government.

His military honors include Distinguished Service Medals, the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star, and Meritorious Service and Army Commendation Medals.

Lieutenant General Robert G. Gard, Jr. (Ret.) is a 31-year veteran of the US Army and served in combat in Korea and Vietnam. He served as executive assistant to two secretaries of defense, was the first Director of Human Resources Development for the US Army and served as President of the National Defense University.

Lt. Gen. Gard is currently Chairman of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation where his policy work focuses on nuclear nonproliferation, missile defense, Iraq, Iran, military policy, nuclear terrorism, and other national security issues.

After retiring from the US Army, Lt. Gen. Gard served for five years as director of the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies Center in Bologna, Italy, and then as President of the Monterey Institute of International Studies from 1987 to 1998. Since 1998, he has been an active consultant in Washington, DC on national security issues, including the international campaign to ban landmines.

Lt. Gen. Gard has written for a diverse number of well-known journals and periodicals that focus on military and international affairs and has lectured widely at US and international universities and academic conferences. He serves on the board of eight non-profit organizations and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

His decorations include the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, the Defense Distinguished Flying Cross and the Defense Distinguished Service Medal.

Lieutenant General Claudia Jean Kennedy (Ret.) is the first female to reach the rank of three-star general in the US Army. She retired in 2000 after 31 years of military service.

Lt. Gen. Kennedy was born in Frankfurt, Germany. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from Southwestern at Memphis and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in June 1969 through the Women’s Army Corps. She was confirmed by the Senate for promotion to Lieutenant General and assigned to the position of Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence as of May 21, 1997.

Lt. Gen. Kennedy has held a variety of command and staff positions throughout her career. Key assignments include: Commander, 3d Operations Battalion, US Army Field Station Augsburg, Germany; Commander, San Antonio Recruiting Battalion, US Army Recruiting Command; and Commander, 703rd Military intelligence Brigade, Field Station Kunia, Hawaii.

She has served as Operations Officer, US Army Field Station Augsburg, US Army Intelligence and Security Command; Staff Officer, Directorate of Training, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Plans, Washington, DC; the Director of Intelligence, G2, Forces Command, Fort McPherson, Georgia, as Deputy Commander, US Army Intelligence Center and Fort Huachuca/Assistant Commandant, US Army Intelligence School at Fort Huachuca, Arizona; and as the Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence at Headquarters, Department of the Army, Washington, DC.

During her career, Lt. Gen. Kennedy has received awards and decorations to include the Legion of Merit (three Oak Leaf Clusters), the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Medal (three Oak Leaf Clusters), the Army Commendation Medal (three Oak Leaf Clusters) and the Army Staff Identification Badge.

Vice Admiral Harold Koenig, MD (Ret.) retired in 1998 as Surgeon General of the Navy and Chief, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery with the permanent rank of Vice Admiral after a 32-year Navy career.

As Surgeon General, Dr. Koenig exercised day-to-day executive management and oversight of the entire Department of the Navy’s medical policies, programs, and activities. Prior to serving as Navy Surgeon General he was assigned to the Office of the Secretary of Defense where he served as a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Health Affairs).

Dr. Koenig is currently the Chairman of the Board and President of The Annapolis Center for Science Based Public Policy, a non-profit foundation dedicated to promoting responsible environmental, health and safety decision-making. He is also the President of the Kensington-Talmadge Community Association. He is a partner in Edward Martin & Associates Inc. a consulting firm to the healthcare industry and healthcare information management and technology companies.

Dr. Koenig’s military awards include the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit with Gold Star, Meritorious Service Medal with Gold Star, Navy Commendation Medal, and the Navy Achievement Medal.

Major General Donna Barbisch, DHA, MPH (Ret.) joined the Army in 1967 at the height of the Vietnam War when most women just did not do that. To put it in historical perspective, it was that year — 1967 that restrictions to women’s promotions were lifted.

Maj. Gen. Barbisch started her military career as a Private First Class in the Army Student Nurse Program and rose to the rank of Major General over a military career spanning more than 38 years, retiring from the Army in 2005. Today Maj. Gen. Barbisch is the President of Global Deterrence Alternatives, a consulting business focused on deterring terrorism and building capacity to manage disasters. She works nationally and internationally to improve preparedness and works with think tanks and executive boards to develop strategic solutions to complex issues. Maj. Gen. Barbisch has been described as a visionary with an entrepreneurial approach to emerging threats.

Over the course of her career she was selected to command a MASH hospital (a first for a nurse), completed a master’s degree and had two wonderful daughters. In 1995 she was selected to attend the US Army War College. She was honored with a follow-on assignment as the Director of Reserve Component Integration Studies in the War College’s Department of Command, Leadership, and Management. Because of her experience at the War College, her efforts shifted to the study of bioterrorism and combating weapons of mass destruction. She led an initiative to identify military roles in domestic support of terrorist attacks. Her seminal work in NYC established policy and protocol credited with improving NYC response to 911. During her promotion to Major General, the Chief of the Army Reserve said “We would not have responded so well on September 11th and since then without the contributions of Donna Barbisch.”

Maj. Gen. Barbisch’s awards and decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal, Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal, National Defense Medal, Bronze Service Star, Vietnam Service Medal with Service Star, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Army Reserve Components Overseas Training Ribbon, Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm Unit Citation, Republic of Vietnam Civil Actions Unit Citation, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, and the Expert Field Medical Badge.

Major General Dennis Laich (Ret.) served for 35 years in the US Army Reserve, 14 of which were spent in various command positions, the last as commander of the 94th Regional Readiness Command in Ft. Devens, MA.

Maj. Gen. Laich holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Lafayette College, and master’s degrees from West Virginia University and St. Francis College in Business Administration and Labor Relations. He completed postgraduate studies at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and is a graduate of the Army War College.

He is currently serving as Ohio Dominican’s PATRIOTS Program Director. Maj. Gen. Laich is the University’s support liaison for veterans applying for the PATRIOTS program, providing one-on-one assistance and linking them with resources they need to meet their educational goals.

His military awards include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, and the Joint Meritorious Service Medal.

Major General Gale S. Pollock (Ret.), Army Nurse Corps, CRNA, FACHE, FAAN, is currently an Advanced Leadership Fellow in Harvard University’s Advanced Leadership Initiative. Before retiring from the Army she served as Commander, US Army Medical Command and Acting Surgeon General of the Army in 2007 (the first woman, non-physician to have this role in any of the military services with a $9.7B annual budget).

She is an adjunct clinical professor of Yonsei University Graduate School of Nursing, a consultant with CornerStone Associates and owner of Pollock Associates, LLC. Maj. Gen. Pollock was the founding Executive Director of the Louis J. Fox Center for Vision Restoration and associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and School of Nursing.

During her Army career, Maj. Gen. Pollock’s military assignments include Acting Surgeon General and Commander of the Army Medical Department; 22nd Chief of the Army Nurse Corps; Deputy Surgeon General for Force Management; Commander, Tripler Army Medical Center, Honolulu, HI; Command Surgeon, US Army Pacific Command; Special Assistant to the Surgeon General for Information Management and Health Policy; Commander, Martin Army Community Hospital, Fort Benning, Ga.; Commander, US Army Medical Activity, Fort Drum, NY; Staff Officer, Strategic Initiatives Command Group for the Army Surgeon General; Department of Defense Healthcare Advisor to the Congressional Commission on Service Members and Veterans Transition Assistance; Health Fitness Advisor at the National Defense University; Senior Policy Analyst in Health Affairs, DoD; and Chief, Anesthesia Nursing Service at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, DC.

Maj. Gen. Pollock’s awards and decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal (with 2 oak leaf clusters), Legion of Merit (with 2 oak leaf clusters), and the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal (with 4 oak leaf clusters), the Joint Service Commendation Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, and the Army Achievement Medal. She received the Army Staff Identification Badge for her work at the Pentagon and earned the German Armed Forces Military Efficiency Badge “Leistungsabzeichen” in gold. She earned the coveted Expert Field Medical Badge, and is proud to wear the Parachutist Badge.

Maj. Gen. Pollock received the 2008 Agatha Hodgins Achievement Award from the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists; was the 2007 “Woman of the Year” of the American Legion Auxiliary; and was a Distinguished Alumna of Baylor University in 2006.

Maj. Gen.Pollock received a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Maryland. She attended the US Army Nurse Anesthesia Program and is a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA). She received her Master of Business Administration from Boston University; a Master’s in Healthcare Administration from Baylor University, a Master’s in National Security and Strategy from the National Defense University, and an honorary Doctorate of Public Service from the University of Maryland. She is also a Fellow in The American College of Healthcare Executives (FACHE) and the American Academy of Nursing (FAAN).

Her passion is restoration of sight and when not advancing this cause, she spends time with her “spousal-unit” Doug McAllaster, enjoying exercise and the beauty of the outdoors.

Rear Admiral Rabbi Harold L. Robinson (Ret.) served as a member of the Chaplain Corps and was Deputy Chief of Chaplains for Reserve Matters and the Director of Religious Programs, Fleet Marine Force.

Rear Adm. Robinson earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Coe College, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in 1968. He also earned a Bachelor of Hebrew Letters, 1972, and a Master of Arts and ordination as a Rabbi, in 1974, both from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. In 1999, the College Institute conferred upon him the degree of Doctor of Divinity and in 2005, Coe College awarded him the Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.

Rear Adm. Robinson’s military career began in 1971, when he was commissioned as an Ensign in the US Naval Reserve and in 1975, he became a Navy Chaplain.

His flag assignment was Deputy Chief of Chaplains for Reserve Matters and Director of Religious Programs, Marine Force Reserve. Rear Adm. Robinson served as President of COMNAVRESFOR Policy Board FY 2005. He was made a Fleet Marine Force Qualified Officer. His overseas assignments took him all over the world.

His personal awards and honors included the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Naval Commendation Medal with two Gold Stars and the Navy and Marine Corps Overseas Deployment Ribbon.

Rear Adm. Robinson is currently the Director of the JWB-Jewish Chaplains Council of the Jewish Community Centers of North America.

Major General Deborah Wheeling, MS, MSN, RN (Ret.) served as Deputy Surgeon General for the Army National Guard and served in a variety of clinical assignments within the Army Medical Department spanning all three Army components. Assignments at Fort Ord, Calif., Fitzsimons Army Medical Center, Colo., and Fort Bragg, N.C., provided clinical experience within Active Component TDA units where she served as Clinical Head Nurse in a variety of outpatient settings. While assigned to Womack Army Community Hospital, Fort Bragg, and Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, Texas, her expertise and experience enabled her to develop and implement the role of an Oncology Clinical Nurse Specialist, thereby establishing the template for advanced oncology nursing practice at both of these facilities.

Maj. Gen. Wheeling served with the US Army Reserve, 312th Evacuation Hospital, Greensboro, N.C., and the 3264th Augmentation Hospital, Durham, N.C., during her graduate studies at Duke University. She joined the West Virginia Army National Guard upon release from active duty in 1984, and served as the State Chief Nurse, West Virginia Army National Guard for five years, overseeing the medical deployment of West Virginia National Guard forces in support of Desert Shield/Desert Storm. In October 2002, she was selected as the Assistant Surgeon General for Mobilization, Readiness and National Guard Affairs, Office of the Surgeon General. In October 2005, Maj. Gen. Wheeling was selected as the Deputy Surgeon General for the Army National Guard.

Maj. Gen. Wheeling’s awards and decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, Army Superior Unit Award, the Order of Military Medical Merit, and the hallmark of clinical and academic expertise, the Surgeon General’s 9A proficiency designator.

Brigadier General Pat Foote (Ret.) was born in 1930, commissioned in the US Army in 1959 and served over 30 years before retiring on September 1, 1989.

Her final tour of duty was as the Commanding General, Ft. Belvoir, Va.

Brig. Gen. Foote holds a bachelor’s degree from Wake Forest University, a master’s degree from Shippensburg State University and is a graduate of the Executive Program of the University of Virginia, the Army War College and the Center for Creative Leadership. She is also the recipient of an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Wake Forest University.

In her career, Brig. Gen. Foote commanded at the company, battalion, brigade and major installation levels. She was the first women to be appointed to the Army War College faculty, and the first Army woman to command a brigade in Europe. Brig. Gen. Foote also served a tour in Vietnam and three tours of duty at Department of the Army level.

She was recalled to active duty from 1996-1997 to serve as Vice Chair of the Secretary of the Army’s Senior Review Panel on Sexual Harassment.

She is the recipient of the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit with Oak Leaf Cluster, and the Bronze Star Medal.

Brigadier General Wilma Vaught (Ret.) is President of the Board of Directors of the Women In Military Service For America Memorial Foundation, Inc.

Her last military assignment was as Commander of the US Military Entrance Processing Command, North Chicago, IL, where she served from June 1982, until her retirement in August 1985.

She is a member of the Board of Directors of the National Women’s History Museum and serves on the Virginia War Memorial Foundation Board of Trustees. Following retirement, she worked as a consultant with the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization as well as with industry. She speaks around the United States on leadership and management.

A native of Illinois, Brig. Gen. Vaught earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana from which she received the Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award in 1983; she also holds a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, and an Honorary Doctorate of Public Affairs from Columbia College, SC. She is the first Air Force woman graduate of the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.

During her military career, she held various positions in the comptroller field at Barksdale AFB, LA; Zaragoza AFB, Spain; McCoy AFB, Orlando, FL; Headquarters, Military Assistance Command, Saigon, Vietnam; Air Force Logistics Command, Wright Patterson AFB, Dayton, OH; the Air Staff, The Pentagon, Washington, DC; and she was the Deputy Chief of Staff, Comptroller, Air Force Systems Command, Andrews AFB, MD.

Brig. Gen. Vaught served as Chairperson of the NATO Women in the Allied Forces Committee from 1983 to 1985 and was the senior woman military representative to the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services from 1982 to 1985.

Brig. Gen. Vaught’s numerous military decorations and awards include both the Defense and Air Force Distinguished Service Medals, Air Force Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, Joint Meritorious Unit Award, Vietnam Service Medal with four service stars, Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with palm and Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.

Why is the U.S. Waging War on Women Raped in War?

12:44 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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

Mandatory sonograms, forced lectures by doctors, humiliating permission slips from abusive husbands, paternalistic opinions from Supreme Court Justice Kennedy, uneducated and patently stupid soundbites from Tea Partiers. That’s not the worst. In this newest wave of the war on women, let’s not forget the U.S. government’s abortion policies toward women in war.

Rape is systematically being used as a weapon of war in conflicts worldwide. During the Rwandan genocide it is estimated that between 250,000 and 500,000 women were raped in 100 days and that approximately 20,000 children were born as a result of rape. Recent reports from Burma indicate that Burmese soldiers have orders to rape women. 387 civilians were raped in Walikale, North Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in a 4 day period last year. In 2008 alone, the U.N. Population Fund recorded 16,000 cases of rape in DRC, two-thirds of them adolescent girls and other children, in an area where rape is vastly underreported. Imagine what the real numbers are.

The stigma associated with rape ostracizes girls and women, particularly those who become pregnant, because they are often seen as carrying the enemy’s child. They are frequently abandoned by their communities, struggling for ways of living with children born out of rape. That is, if they survive childbirth. The maternal mortality ratio in eastern DRC is estimated at 3,000 deaths per 100,000 live births (compare that with 24 deaths per 100,000 live births in the U.S. and 5 deaths per 100,000 live births in Denmark).

How does the U.S. address this emergency? Under the 1973 Helms Amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act, and subsequent policy by the Bush Administration, the U.S. prohibits any federal foreign assistance from being used to even mention abortion as an option to women raped in armed conflict. The current incarnation of these restrictions go beyond statutory requirements because the statute is limited to restricting the provision of abortion “as a method of family planning.” Rape is never family planning. The repeal of the Global Gag Rule did not affect these restrictions.

This U.S. policy stands in stark contrast to the development policies of other prominent donors and even its own domestic policy. As much as some Tea Partiers wish it wasn’t so, the domestic equivalent of these restrictions (the Hyde Amendment) does contain a rape exception. The United Kingdom, with a ruling conservative party, recognizes the need to provide abortions in conflicts in which rape and forced pregnancy are used as weapons of war. Norway formally recommended that the U.S. remove its restriction on funding to these victims during the Universal Periodic Review of the United States by the Human Rights Council.

The best an organization accepting U.S. funding can provide even to a twelve year old impregnated rape survivor hiding in the bushes of eastern Congo is a plastic sheet and a clean knife for labor. Or, if she suffers complications from having an unsafe abortion (because she doesn’t have access to safe abortion services, often because of U.S. abortion restrictions), they can provide her with “post-abortion care.” Giving these women “birthing kits,” or lecturing them about preventative family planning, when the family they would be planning for is with a contingent of combatants armed with guns, Viagra and orders to rape, is appalling. Beyond that, it violates international law.

August 12th marked the 62nd anniversary of the Geneva Conventions, which require that all persons considered “wounded and sick” in armed conflict receive comprehensive and non-discriminatory medical care dictated solely by their medical condition. Despite these protections, girls and women who are raped in armed conflict are routinely denied the option of abortion in the medical care provided to them in humanitarian medical settings. This is discriminatory and violates their rights under the Geneva Conventions. The U.S., by attaching these restrictions on humanitarian aid for rape victims in conflict, is violating the rights of these women. The urgency of this violation cannot be understated: the U.S. is the largest donor of humanitarian aid in the world, and is instrumental in preventing essential medical care to a desperately vulnerable population.

In order to bring the U.S. into compliance with the Geneva Conventions, and restore dignity to our foreign policy, President Obama must act now to ensure the rights of female rape victims in conflict. Over fifty organizations, legal academics and professionals have sent letters to President Obama as part of the Global Justice Center’s August 12 campaign to remove the abortion ban for girls and women raped in armed conflict. Sign the GJC’s petition urging President Obama to issue an executive order lifting these life-threatening restrictions here.

Military Women Deserve First-Class Treatment, Not Second-Class Status

8:48 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Dr. Katherine Scheirman for – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

Dr. Katherine Scheirman served as an officer in the United States Air Force as a physician for 20 years. As Chief, Medical Operations Division for the Headquarters, United States Air Forces in Europe (HQ USAFE) her assignments included oversight of the quality of care provided at Air Force hospitals and clinics in the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, and Turkey. Dr. Scheirman retired as a colonel in 2006.

I was deeply disappointed to learn that on May 24, the leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives shut down debate on an amendment that would have provided abortion services to military women who become pregnant as a result of rape.

Under current law, the Department of Defense is barred from providing coverage for abortion except where the pregnant woman’s life is endangered. Unlike other federal bans on abortion coverage, the military ban provides no exception for cases of rape or incest. The current policy is shameful. Our military women, who serve and sacrifice for their country, should not have worse health care benefits than civilians who rely on the government for their insurance coverage.

As Chief of Medical Operations at the Air Force’s European Headquarters, I was significantly involved in the initial development of the Sexual Assault Response and Prevention program (SAPRO) for our bases throughout Europe. Improvements in the area of prevention and reporting of assaults, and in the provision of emergency contraception, are commendable. However, military sexual assaults remain unacceptably high.

While the Department of Defense maintains a zero tolerance policy on sexual assault, this crime has reached crisis level in the military. … Read more

Study: Female Active Duty Soldiers Face Many Barriers to Care

8:52 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Dr. Dan Grossman for – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

Much of the discussion surrounding the yet-unapproved National Defense Authorization Act for 2011 has focused on the future of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”  But the Senate version of this bill contains another controversial provision that would reverse the prohibition on use of military facilities for elective abortions, though women would have to pay for the services themselves.  Although a small step, this would be an important advance toward recognizing the significant contribution that women bring to our armed forces. 

Women make up approximately 14 percent of active duty forces, and 97 percent are of reproductive age.  Like the general U.S. population, unintended pregnancy is common among women in the military, despite policies aimed at restricting sexual contact.  The unfortunate reality is that not all sexual activity is consensual, with as many as one-third of female soldiers reporting being a victim of sexual assault.

Ibis Reproductive Health is conducting several studies aimed at understanding the experiences of women in the U.S. military seeking reproductive health care, and our research has uncovered many barriers faced by active duty soldiers.  In an online survey, about one-quarter of women who had been deployed overseas reported difficulties obtaining a birth control method at military facilities.  Women complained of problems making an appointment with a clinician to obtain contraception, the lack of availability of certain methods, an inability to get enough supplies at one time, as well as concerns about the confidentiality of services.  Those who wanted an IUD before deployment found it particularly hard to access due to restrictions about who was eligible for the method—restrictions that are not based on the most up-to-date clinical evidence.

But the biggest challenge is faced by military women deployed abroad who find themselves with an unintended pregnancy. Read more

The Health Hazards of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell:” A View from the Clinic

11:01 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Kenneth Katz for – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

On December 1, The New England Journal of Medicine published an article I wrote entitled “Health Hazards of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’” The article describes how the military’s policy on homosexuality imperils the health of service members, the military, and the country, and it advocates for repeal of the policy on those grounds.

I have to say that, until last year, I never anticipated publishing an article about “don’t ask, don’t tell.” I have always supported repeal of the policy. But I’m a physician and public-health practitioner, not a policy wonk, lawyer, or expert on military affairs. And I’ve never served in the military myself.

What changed? Well, in 2009 I moved to San Diego, California, to take a job as medical director of the municipal STD clinics in San Diego and as director of public health efforts to prevent and control STDs in the community. San Diego has proved different from places I’ve lived in the past. It’s not just sunnier. It’s a whole lot more military. In fact, about 175,000 active-duty service members and their dependents live in San Diego. And considering that an estimated 2.2 percent of military personnel are lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB), it should not be a surprise that a fair number of them are LGB.

I know that first-hand, because I frequently care for active-duty service members, including LGB service members, in the municipal clinics. And, as I do for every patient I see, I take a sexual history. I ask my patients who they have sex with, what types of sex they’re having with their partners, whether they’re using protection. In doing so, I’m simply doing what I’ve been trained to so since my very first day of medical school: find out what the problem is, and fix it. And, when it comes to sexual health, those questions are critical to me, in determining which screening tests to order, which diagnoses to consider, and which STD and HIV prevention messages I should provide. For example, guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding STD screening are different for men who have sex with men who than they are for men who have sex only with women.

What happens when I ask my patients those intimate questions? Read more

The Burris Amendment and the Military Abortion Ban: Good But Not Good Enough

6:31 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by MakoSharkEsq for – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

For most of this year, almost all of the controversy surrounding the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011 (NDAA-FY2011) focused on an amendment within the Senate Armed Services Committee to repeal the DOD’s "Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell" policy. Once that battle was finally resolved, Senator Roland Burris (D, IL) quickly injected an amendment to lift the military’s ban on privately-funded abortion. His timing allowed the amendment to be attached without opportunity for anti-choice forces to lobby against it. And so at the close of May, the Senate Armed Services Committee completed its markup of NDAA-FY2011 and recommended it (as amended) to be scheduled for a floor vote. The Burris Amendment to the bill for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011 (NDAA-FY2011) shows great initiative, symbolic significance, parliamentary cunning, and sound policy. It’s a correction over two decades overdue. But however good it may be, it is not good enough.

It’s been reported that the Burris Amendment applies the Conscience Rule to military health care. More so than even the original Conscience Rule, this military incarnation is extremely problematic and offers a clear, demonstrable potential to be very widely invoked in the most dangerous of settings. If a physician or pharmacist in a military hospital refuses to provide treatment or service, then a military patient has very few (or possibly no) alternatives to seek care off-base — especially in war zones.

The Military Abortion Ban & the Conscience Rule

Since 1979, the Department of Defense (DOD) has prohibited the use of federal funds for abortion services at military hospitals overseas in almost all cases. In 1985, the ban was made permanent by DOD authorization bill. In 1988, the DOD issued an administrative order — without congressional consultation — extending the funding ban to prohibit women from obtaining abortion care with their own funds at military facilities overseas.

— NARAL Pro-Choice America on the origins of the ban

Two years later, Congress unsuccessfully attempted to override the ban by statute. Then, in his inaugural year, President Clinton reversed the ban via executive order, allowing abortion services paid with private funds at military hospitals. A year after the Republican resurgence of 1994, Congress enacted the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1996, which cemented the military abortion ban into statute, where it has endured ever since (notwithstanding an attempt by the Democratic majority in Congress to lift it in 2006).

A month after the Republicans lost the 2008 presidential election (as well as several seats in the House and Senate), President G.W. Bush issued several "eleventh-hour regulations" that would carry over through Obama’s term. Among them was an anti-choice regulation called the Conscience Rule — which not only granted health care professionals the right to refuse treatment and services, but also absolved them of any obligation to advise the patient of even the existence of alternatives.

Although almost immediately upon inauguration President Obama sought to rescind the rule, that effort was quickly lost in the madness of the national preoccupation with health care reform. Ultimately, the Conscience Rule was integrated into the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which immunized the refusal of treatment and referral to treatment [see Sec. 1303(a)(3), Provider Conscience Protections], and affirmed the extent of any existing conscience protections not covered by the Act [see Sec. 1303(b)(2)(A)(i)].

NDAA-FY2011 & the Burris Amendment

As expected, there has been an explosion of positive pro-choice press commending the Burris Amendment and highlighting its compelling policy rationale. However, according to the ACLU, the Burris language also creates a military version of the Conscience Rule:

(The amendment would also allow health care professionals a right to refuse to perform an abortion.)

As of the time of this writing, the Thomas database of the Library of Congress had not updated its record of NDAA-FY2011 to include the Burris Amendment (or any amendments since April). And as such, the following comment is predicated upon the accuracy of the ACLU’s finding.

Impractical Alternatives

The policy argument to justify the Conscience Rule in the US is based on available alternatives in the free market — which is obviously impractical in a rural setting. In a military setting abroad, an even greater impracticality would create a de facto ban. Because of security considerations, a patient in Afghanistan cannot just freely seek medical alternatives if her military physician or pharmacist invokes the rule. She would need authorization and security clearance from her superiors to leave base — creating a disincentive.

Even if she were to get such authorization, there’s also the issue of availability and comparability. An abortion in Afghanistan or any foreign venue may not be easily obtained given hostile public policy, limited resources, and the woman’s ability to discover such resources in a foreign country. Moreover, Afghani and Iraqi hospitals offer what everyone, including even the DOD, regards as substantially poorer care.

Trends in the Military Market

Any reliance on the mythically bountiful marketplace is subject to market trends. And so, two assumptions necessary to justify the Conscience Rule in the US are that diverse producers in the market will offer diverse choices and when they don’t (ie, when the producers collude), the market will correct itself because it is motivated by consumer demand.

Both of those assumptions are flawed in the military context for the same reason: military health care isn’t capitalist. It’s uniformly institutionalized. A military physician’s, pharmacist’s, or hospital’s livelihood doesn’t fluctuate with patronage. Also, since there is exclusivity, there is no impetus to compete by providing more comprehensive services. Providers in the military health care "market" thus enjoy a secure station. If we empower that station with discretion to refuse service, then those health care professionals are no longer market participants. They become institutionalized gatekeepers. Access becomes entirely permissive.

Even more problematic is the fact that the military is based on a culture of homogeneity that isn’t germane to a diverse market. Like-minded providers provide "like-mindedly." So the specter of a trend among military physicians to disfavor (or exclude entirely) abortion services is not only very real, but it would also be virtually immutable since such a like-minded fraternity needn’t adapt to consumer demand.

Conscience vs Command [base policy wins]

Yet another problem with the Conscience Rule in a military setting is that the military’s hierarchical command structure vests an override power in the base commander. This essentially gives the Colonel or Captain a base-wide kill switch for abortion services even where the physician has sided with the patient.

Why a Remedy May Be Disfavored

Now that the Senate Armed Services Committee has approved the bill, it is scheduled for a floor debate, before it ultimately advances it to a floor vote. While in debate, a floor amendment that cures the Conscience Rule could still be offered, yet there has been no movement towards such a remedy.

The extremely troubling implications of the rule seem fairly obvious. It creates an exemption that swallows the amendment. Indeed, the ACLU has noted the aforementioned considerations of impracticality that gave rise to the amendment, although it doesn’t mention the self-defeating effect of the Conscience Rule. In fact, there has been a conspicuous lack of objection to the NDAA’s Conscience Rule from the pro-choice community.

Since the bill is projected to pass without complication, there may be a reluctance to threaten the greater good of lifting the abortion ban with a fight that (on the civilian side) has already been capitulated to the private sector. If this is correct, it’s another example of sacrificing reproductive rights along the path of least turbulence.

The fear may also be that rattling the sabers over the Conscience Rule might give the opponents of DADT the "abortion scapegoat" they need (as we saw with health care reform). Thus, this insistence could potentially put the pro-choice community at odds with the LGBT community if pressing the problem of the Conscience Rule is misperceived as an overreach rather than a necessity.

Why This Imperative is Nonetheless Feasible

Because the Burris Amendment was introduced in committee and because it was drafted with protective language, it cannot be stripped from the bill without a three-fifths majority of 60 votes. Since NDAA-FY2011 contains appropriations that are vital to the DOD, the bill as a whole is also nearly immune from political sabotage via filibuster. And so, as the office of Senator Burris touts, the bill is an insuperable vehicle from which his amendment cannot be ousted. Similarly, the DADT repeal enjoys nearly complete safe passage through the floor, because it was constructed the same way.

Moreover, in the Senate, floor amendments need not be germane, allowing for riders. A floor amendment could be conceived with language that operatively supersedes the Conscience Rule. The Burris Amendment would thereby be inoculated from its only flaw — without threat to the Burris Amendment, the amendment repealing DADT, or to the overall bill. Thus, the urgency of removing the Conscience Rule should not be offset by any perceived need to protect interests that are already invulnerable.

Activating the Proper Action

As floor debate approaches, now is the appropriate time to pressure legislators with this change. Once debate is closed, the opportunity expires with it.

"If you’re not able to get access to services on base, you’re at the mercy of whatever medical services are out there. It’s a pretty dangerous scenario."

— US Senator Burris [D, IL]

on the importance of access

While Senator Burris’ initiative in lifting the military’s longstanding abortion ban should definitely be lauded, this endeavor should not be approached without due care. For the many reasons described at lengths above, the military Conscience Rule would be far more damaging to military women than the civilian version is to civilian women. Because the military context is distinct from the civilian context, this exemption sets the stage to make the right impractical even if it becomes legal.

Absent any unanticipated parliamentary concerns, it is critical that the repair of this defect does not yield to political convenience — or to any attempts to trivialize it. A simple departmental memorandum resulted in over twenty years of failed efforts to correct that poisoned policy. Ignoring a similarly small, "forgivable" defect in the antidote might actually perpetuate the exact same ill for decades more.

Repeal Abortion Ban for Servicewomen

6:25 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Amie Newman for – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

Sen. Roland Burris (D-IL) introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would repeal the long-standing ban on abortion care for military women seeking an abortion on a U.S. military base – even for a servicewoman willing to use her own money. According to the ACLU:

The ban, which applies even if a woman pays for the procedure with her own private funds and in cases where a woman’s health is at risk, was first put into place in 1988 with an internal Department of Defense memorandum. In 1993, President Bill Clinton reversed the policy by executive order but Congress intervened two years later to codify and reinstate the ban.

The amendment, therefore, would codify the repeal of the ban and take the ball out of play, so to speak. By leaving it up to a Democratic president to issue an executive order and then up to a Republican congress to reinstate the ban, we’re just playing ping pong with military women’s health and lives. From NARAL Pro-Choice America:

Since 1979, the Department of Defense (DoD) appropriations bills have prohibited the use of federal funds for abortion services at overseas military hospitals in almost all cases. In 1985, the ban was made permanent by the DoD authorization bill.1 In 1988, DoD issued an administrative order – without congressional consultation – extending the funding ban to prohibit women from obtaining abortion care with their own funds at military facilities overseas. Prior to the 1988 restrictions, women would have to pay for the procedures themselves.

Vania Leveille, ACLU Legislative Counsel says,

“There are hundreds of thousands of women serving in our military who put their lives on the line to protect our freedoms yet they are prevented from exercising their own reproductive freedom. Servicewomen stationed overseas are disproportionately affected by this ban. Allowing American servicewomen to use their own private funds to obtain abortion care at U.S. military facilities is fundamental and should never have been questioned in the first place. Senator Burris’ leadership was crucial to this victory and we are grateful to members of the Senate Armed Services Committee for voting to repeal this unjust and unfair policy."

In order for a woman fighting for our country, currently, to exercise her right to a safe and legal abortion, using her own money, she must first seek abortion care off of a United States military base (and, of course, if abortion is not legal in the country in which she is currently stationed, then what?), then she must request leave stating the reason for her leave and thirdly she must, of course, have the time and money to seek safe abortion care wherever she can find it. Barring women from using their own money to exercise a legal right to access the care they decide is best for them endangers women’s health and lives. Seems to me that the Stupak Amendment is the not so long lost child of this inequitable abortion ban for military women; barring women from using our own money to pay for a legal procedure.