Friday, January 29, 2010

Abortions in the military: disempowering women in service

Prior to Roe v. Wade, women in the military were pressured to get abortions so as to preserve them and their physical availability for service, otherwise automatic discharge from service would result. Now, it's nearly impossible for military women to safely get an abortion, in both the physical and political means. Meet Amy: a Marine who had received excellent performance evaluations and was on track to promotion but now fears for her career's integrity because of her pregnancy resulting from rape while in service in Iraq. A ban set in place in 1979 prevented any federal monies, which includes military medical health plans, from funding abortions. The inability for military physicians to provide abortions forces women who become pregnant in the military to take drastic measures to find an abortion; including local off-base hospitals in the region of service where language/cultural/technical differences in medical practices can jeopardize safety and comfort to the patient, horrifyingly unsafe do-it-yourself methods with any variety of herbal abortifacients or coathanger devices, or taking a stigmatized military leave to travel thousands of miles back home to (hopefully) receive a safe abortion with the proper care in a timely fashion. To make matters worse, the punishment for violating Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, ie. having sex in a war zone, can land you a hefty fine and suspended rank reduction. This offense is clearly unjust because a female can't exactly hide pregnancy, whereas the impregnating male can remain elusive under this law, pending genetic paternal tests. Regardless, Amy was afraid to tell her officers, peers and medical caretakers of her pregnancy because she feared being viewed as a "weak female" and most certainly did not want to interrupt her active service in Iraq. After a mess of revelations to her ranking officers, Amy was sent home, mostly on the deabilitating diagnoses of PSTD, depression and anxiety, and get an abortion after having unsuccessfully attempting to terminate it herself via a few horrifying methods.

Many leaders in government like Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA), Vicki Saporta, President of the National Abortion Federation, and Lieutenant General Claudia J. Kennedy, are pushing hard for abortion rights in the military, but even amongst their battles with abortion legislation, military abortion rights see a small piece of the pie. The barriers facing women in the military to receive abortion services loom at every turn when looking for help. The most straightforward way to put it, is that “servicewomen do not receive the protection of the Constitution they defend" and this is a form of exploitation that is morally unacceptable. 

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