MILITARY WOMEN haven’t had the same rights as civilian females when it comes to reproductive health care for decades. Unbelievably, only if the life of the woman is at stake is abortion currently covered through Department of Defense policy. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen has a bill that will alter this injustice, which is backed by very few Republicans, Sens. John McCain, Scott Brown, and Susan Collins, but Republican extremists in the House are intent on scuttling it.
While the State Department covers an employee who’s been raped if she wants an abortion, a female in the U.S. military serving overseas who is raped does not have coverage for the same type of procedure. The soldier would have to pay for it herself and if she can’t prove it’s rape, she could be forced off the base to get the procedure done. Imagine that horror in the Middle East.
Current Pentagon policy is more restrictive than the 1976 Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funds from being used to provide abortion services except in the case of rape, incest, or if the woman’s life is endangered. The DOD enacted its stricter, life-of-the-mother-only limit on abortions in 1979. In 1988, the law was tightened again—Congress now forbids women from using their own money to pay for abortions in military health centers unless they are a victim of rape or incest, or if their life is at risk.
The military reported 471 rapes of servicemembers in 2011 alone. The true number is likely far higher—the Pentagon’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office estimates that only about 13.5 percent of all rapes and sexual assaults in the military are actually reported. The Women’s Health and Rights Program at the Center for American Progress estimates that several hundred women in the military become pregnant as a result of rape each year.
These women are willing to die for their country. They have earned the right to have full freedoms and protection while they’re doing it.
The article focuses on Republicans, as it should because they are the prime culprits, but I wonder how many Senate and House religious conservative Democrats will end up voting against Shaheen’s legislation, too.
As for so-called conservative women in Congress, why won’t they stand up? I know why, but it makes absolutely no sense.
I will never understand why Republicans don’t see that a woman’s individual freedom is a deeply conservative, libertarian notion as much as it is a civil right.