21 May 2003

Reproductive Rights for Women in the Military

In recent weeks we've heard much about the bravery of our women in uniform. Remember though, that these women stationed abroad cannot obtain abortions in military hospitals, even in cases of rape or incest. As Planned Parenthood says, Under the current ban, a U.S. servicewoman or female military dependent stationed overseas who needs an abortion may be forced to seek services in the host country, where abortion services may not be safe or legal. Alternatively, she may have to notify her superiors about her need for an abortion and wait until there is space available on a military flight back to the United States, sacrificing her privacy and increasing her health risk with potentially dangerous delays.

This state of affairs is hardly surprising. After all, the US military that idolized Private Lynch for her "spunk" (!) also gave us Tailhook and systematic rape condoned by supervisors at the Air Force Academy. Three women Senators are now seeking to overturn that ban, however. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Senator Olympia Snowe
(R-ME) and Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) are sponsoring legislation to repeal the ban on abortions in military hospitals. Abortions would still have to be privately funded of course (the Hyde Amendment seems to be unkillable), but at least would not have to risk their privacy or even their lives to terminate a pregnancy overseas.

The US military remains one of the most misogynistic organizations I can think of. Ending its paternalistic approach to women's reproductive health care will go a long way towards both changing its image and granting true equality to the women it wants to call heroes.

Update: my excellent mother has pointed out that "heroized" is not a word. I have edited accordingly!


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