Standing up for servicewomen: Rape survivors deserve access to abortion care
I am a single female serving my country in Iraq. I was raped. . . I volunteered for this deployment, and I worked hard for my promotion. I deserve to continue my mission. And I missed my period today . . . I need my career and I want to serve. This has been my dream: to serve my country. And I never thought that I would have to worry about being raped. But it happened to me. Please, I am asking . . . can you help me?
Anonymous; Iraq (as reported to NAF)
Rape survivors in the military are most often from the lower ranks, earning less pay, and therefore less likely to be able to pay extra for medical care. Denial of coverage adds significant financial burdens to women who may delay accessing care in order to find the needed funds. It’s wrong that after being raped so many of our servicewomen have to put their lives, health, and military careers at risk in order to access the abortion care they need.
This is also a matter of fundamental fairness. Military insurance should be comparable to other federal health insurance programs, many of which cover abortion care in cases of rape and incest. Women in the military put their lives on the line for our country, and they deserve the same access to safe, legal abortion care after sexual violence as their civilian counterparts.
Other federal health insurance programs are prohibited from providing funding for abortion care, but unlike the military, most contain an exception for pregnancy resulting from rape and incest. Although I don’t support bans on the funding of abortion care, at the very least making military policy consistent with other federal health insurance programs, such as Medicaid, is imperative for the health and well being of women in the military.
Military women receive high quality medical care during their military careers for other harm that comes to them, and that should include coverage of abortion care for women who have survived sexual violence. Women in our military stand up for us. We must stand up for them.
Vicki Saporta is the President of the National Abortion Federation (NAF), the professional association of abortion providers in North America.
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