Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Female Soldiers Not Protected by The Constitution They Defend.

The excellent Kathryn Joyce has an article at Religion Dispatches today about military women and abortion. Read the whole thing here. And a clip:

Starting in 1979, Defense Department appropriations bills have been used to restrict or prohibit the use of federal funds—meaning all military health coverage—for abortion services at overseas military hospitals. Although President Clinton reversed the ban shortly after taking office, anti-abortion forces in Congress made the ban permanent in 1995, preventing future presidents from altering the rules by executive order.

What began as a funding ban, compelling women to pay for abortion services themselves, was later extended into a more comprehensive embargo on performing abortions in any military hospital except in cases of rape, incest or threat to the life of the mother. Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA), argued that “servicewomen do not receive the protection of the Constitution they defend,” and tried unsuccessfully in 2005 and 2006 to repeal the ban—or at least to bring it in line with current Medicaid standards by allowing abortion funding in rape and incest cases. Opponents like Kansas Republican Jim Ryan postured in response claiming that, “allowing self-funded abortions would simply turn our military hospitals overseas into abortion clinics.”

In fact, before Roe v. Wade the situation was reversed: servicewomen were pressured into having abortions due to a military policy of automatically discharging pregnant women. That policy ended with Crawford v. Cushman, a 1976 U.S. Appeals Court case ruling that the discharge rule violated due process.

The result of the ban is that active-duty servicewomen and military dependents are faced with a number of equally unappealing options: venture out to local hospitals while overseas, to medical facilities that may have different standards of care, where medical workers may not speak English, or where there is animosity towards the U.S.; seek a back alley abortion in a country that prohibit abortion; or undertake an arduous process of obtaining permission from commanding officers to fly home or to a neighboring country, find space on a military transport or pay for a commercial flight home—a prohibitive cost for lower-ranking servicewomen—and return to their units aware that their superiors know intimate details about their medical records.

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