Should the military cover abortion?

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-03-2007
Should the military cover abortion?
Sat, 06-23-2007 - 2:50pm

Okay, here's a new topic.

First of all, rape statistics for our servicewomen overseas are skyrocketing. I've read of women dying of dehydration after refusing to drink because they are afraid to use the latrines. This is "friendly-fire" rape I'm talking about. It seems clear to me that compared to a civilian woman who has been raped, there are additional pressures which prevent servicewomen from confronting their attackers and pressing charges. It is therefore cruel punishment to refuse EC or abortion service to women unless they formally file rape charges. As the law currently stands, military physicians are prohibited from counseling or referring for abortions, and base pharmacies make individual decisions about whether or not to stock EC. If a servicewoman is in Afghanistan, for example, she must leave the base and search for a local, illegal, unsafe back-alley abortion, or she may attempt to arrange for leave to fly to Germany and arrange for a private service there (at her own expense) (whenever they decide she can have a leave of absence).

This treatment of our soldiers is barbaric. Cold. Foolish. Disrespectful.

There have been movements to rectify the situation but they have been shot down.

Shouldn't military women have access to EC? And the option of abortion? It's one thing when they are here on US soil, to require them to go find and fund their own (on tiny paychecks) but to strand them on foreign soil without basic medical services... is that humane?

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-03-2007
Sat, 06-23-2007 - 2:55pm

Here's a perspective from a woman in the Navy. Her story begins before that, keep on reading.

Why Roe Vs. Wade is Not Enough

When I was 19, I became pregnant after my live-in boyfriend of 2 years refused to take me to Planned Parenthood (a 20-minute drive, and I had no car) to get my Depo shot (his calendar had it marked for the following month). I'm allergic to latex and spermicide so there was no real question of a backup method. Suffice it to say, sex was had during that month, not all of it consensual. Lo and behold, I go in for my next checkup, and I'm pregnant (and my calendar was right).

At this point my boyfriend was rather angry. When they called us in to talk about our options, he basically said "She doesn't have any options," and marched me right out of the clinic. At that point...well, I didn't have any options. No money, no transportation, no family to count on, nothing.

So I suffered through five months of morning sickness, prenatal checkups, Medicaid paperwork, all the while trying to hide the pregnancy from everyone because I really truly didn't want to acknowledge or celebrate it. I kept working as a volunteer firefighter because it gave me a warm place to sleep at night away from him. But at five months I started to show, and everyone noticed and told me I couldn't ride calls or sleep in anymore. So I was pretty much consigned to go sleep at the father's house. In the meantime, his anger had just been building.

The first night I slept there, he punched me in the face and stomach. He finally revealed to me that he didn't want the baby any more than I did, but he couldn't have permitted me to have an abortion (his dad's Muslim). He felt that it was perfectly ok to force me to endure 9 months of pregnancy and risk my life and health so he wouldn't feel guilty about letting me kill a fetus. I looked at him...and it's a look I'll never forget to this he knelt over me, bruised, crying, after he'd asserted his total power over my body and the decisions that ought to be mine to make. And then he raped me.

The last three months of the pregnancy were a nightmare. I was constantly in pain - either from the beatings and rapes, or from the contractions that always seemed to start in earnest when I was stressed or dehydrated. I spent probably half the time in the hospital. I always denied the "domestic violence" question, despite clear evidence to the contrary; I spoke to lots of social workers, but I wanted nothing to do with them.

My daughter was born on August 1st, 2002. God only knows what trauma she endured before she was born; I know she endured quite a lot of NICU trauma after birth to correct a tracheoesophageal fistula. But I also know the family who adopted her, and I believe that they will do their best. I celebrate their gain, but I wish that I had truly had the right to choose.

My second pregnancy was at 22. I was newly married, we were a dual-active-duty couple, both young and still not ready for kids. But...birth control precautions started to slip a little bit for newlyweds..soon enough I was pregnant. Luckily, in Southern California, Planned Parenthood is everywhere. We got there in time for a medical abrtion, and the people there were very kind and caring. The cost wasn't even that bad. I struggled emotionally somewhat with this decision, but in the end it was the right thing to do, and most of all, it was my choice (Cali PP didn't even let partners into counseling sessions).

My third was at age 24, due to rape. We were about to leave on deployment, we were getting drunk and rowdy down in san diego, and some of my "shipmates" decided to spike my drinks with some substance. I wake up in their hotel room naked in a ball in the corner by the heater, bleeding and in pain. The room is empty. I can't report this - the Navy is, shall we say, not exactly receptive to claims about druggings, and would be more likely to send me to mast for adultery and illegal drug use than to punish my "shipmates" for rape.

Medical was of course closed that night, but when I went the next morning to ask for the morning after pill, they said they didn't carry it. I have trouble believing this, and the corpsman could have been lying, but it's not exactly a subject I want to push. I just hope and pray. But 2 weeks later, I come up pregnant.

They don't do abortions on Navy ships. Period. It's not even like a ground base in Iraq, where you can go beg some old midwife to do it for you and hope she doesn't kill you in the process...nobody does them. And they wouldn't fly me off until I hit the 20 week mark (oddly enough, that's the mark where abortion expenses skyrocket and hardly anyone provides them). So I tough it out, fuel and hazardous materials and all, try to do my job as best I can while attempting to eat what passes for a balanced diet of green, yellow, orange, brown, red and pink slop.

At 20 weeks, they fly me home. I check on abortion providers in my area. Only one does them at 21+ weeks, and the cost is $3000-5000. Not pocket change. Don't have it, can't get it, and even if I did, can't just take 2 days off work at the clinic's convenience. All this time I'm just screaming "Get this thing out of me!!" but nobody will listen. Finally, in an act of total desperation, I take matters into my own hands. I use a knitting needle through my (luckily incompetent) cervix to break my amniotic sac. I'm hoping to induce labor, but nothing after a few hours of gushing fluid I go to the ER. They tell me that the pregnancy can't be allowed to continue because of the risk of infection, that the baby won't be viable either way because of its age, and that I can either wait for labor to start on its own or I can let them induce it. I go with the induction.

That was the most godawful painful experience of my life (far worse than my daughter's birth). It was traumatic for me, for the doctor, for the nurses...I felt terribly sorry to have put them through that, to make them deliver a stillborn baby. But it all could have been avoided simply by allowing medical abortions on navy ships.

The weird thing is that I don't regret that one. I'm angry. I'm angry at the military political climate that punishes rape victims. I'm angry that the War on Drugs has been taken so far that a young military woman, showing all physical signs of rape, has to fear drug charges for having Rohypnol in her system. I'm angry at the govenment's refusal to provide any kind of care for deployed soldiers and sailors - in fact, their deliberate effort to keep sailors and soldiers deployed until it's too late to access care.
And I'm coming full circle here - I'm angry at the man who wanted to force me to bear his child, but didn't want to raise it. I'm angry at the clinic that called him in for my options counseling. I'm angry at the law that made me have to get him to drive to that clinic in the first place instead of just walking to my general practitioner. I'm just foaming, steaming, hopping MAD!

I suppose my point in all this is that we need to start working to go a whole lot farther than Roe v. Wade in the protection of women's reproductive rights. Military women, battered women, disabled women and minors get the worst deal - but we're all affected. So what more can we do?

iVillage Member
Registered: 10-11-2005
Sat, 06-23-2007 - 3:20pm

YES~YES~YES~as I shout from my roof top! We had a case here in Washington state where a serviceman wife had a fetus died in uterio and the military didn't want to pay for her abortion either and I believe that went to the superior court too (the couple payed for it and I believe the navy was suppose to repay them). They (female military personal and female dependents) should have the same type of coverage that we "normal" government employees have~~and as I'm a state of Washington employee, my insurance will cover 1 abortion a year. And my insurance is $748, and I pay 90% ($614) of it not the state.


~~Sam stitches well with others, runs with scissors in her pocket. Cheerful and stupid.
iVillage Member
Registered: 10-14-2003
Sat, 06-23-2007 - 9:55pm

YES, to covering abortions and EC.

NO, it is not humane that they don't.

WHY would the U.S. army not support its Servicewomen and denounce those who have raped their fellow soldiers? Why continue to employ those who bring disgrace to the country and uniform? Are they THAT desperate for bodies to win this losing war?

This to me is rank sexism. Rank, as in formal military rank and odorous to boot. I see we women still aren't viewed as valuable, as is evidenced by the U.S. Government and their unequal treatment of equally-ranked soldiers depending on gender. Remind me to reincarnate as a male.

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Avatar for hydromommy
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Sat, 06-23-2007 - 11:07pm

This is barbaric.....I'm so beyond pissed....I've already been stripped of my CL powers for stating my opinions...if I said what I felt would probably be the worst ever violation of TOS on record.

....and my Ex husbamd wondered WHY I was so f-0king glad