Move to improve women’s access to abortion in US military
An amendment to a bill before the US Senate aims to improve access to abortion for women serving in the US military.
Under current Department of Defense insurance, women soldiers can only get an abortion in a military health centre if their life is deemed to be at risk.
This is considerably more restricted than the 1976 Hyde Amendment which states that federal funds cannot be used to provide abortion, except in cases of rape, incest or where the mother’s life is endangered.
Little wonder that only about 13.5 percent of all rapes and sexual assaults (about 19,000) in the military are actually reported.
The extent of rape in the military has been highlighted recently by a number of campaigns and the imminent release of a feature length documentary, ‘The Invisible War’.
Currently a servicewoman is left with few choices if she becomes pregnant after being raped. Basically, if she wants to have an abortion, she has to pay for it herself.
In some cases this may be provided at a military hospital – but only if she can prove that the pregnancy was the result of rape. Her other choice is to seek an abortion elsewhere.
For women serving abroad in countries such as Iraq or Afghanistan, finding an abortion off base is a near impossibility, meaning that they have to return to the US. Even if they do, many entry-level service women cannot afford the cost of an abortion.
Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen has added an amendment to the 2013 National Defence Authorisation Act that would remove these limitations and allow serving women greater access to abortion.
One features three women who have recently returned from active service in Afghanistan and Iraq in which they say:
“As a soldier in Iraq, I put my life on the line to protect and defend my country. I fought for the freedom and justice our country stands for. Yet, I’m denied proper reproductive health care benefits; denied abortion care even if I’m the victim of rape.
“I expected the horror of war in Iraq – but I expected better from my own government.”
Although the bill passed the Senate Armed Services Committee last month, it is not likely to be approved, as House Republicans oppose it.
A GOP staff member told the Army Times that the amendment was unlikely to survive the next stage of the process,
“Historically, social provisions that are not reflected in both bills heading into conference don’t survive,” he said. “Amendments like this have come up several times.”
Americans who want to show their support can sign a petition and help spread the word.