The New York Times last week reported on the Pentagon policy bill containing the proposal to repeal the controversial ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy in the US military. However, instead of focusing on this part of the bill, the piece focused on a lesser-known amendment that takes on another emotive issue – making abortion easier for military women in war zones.
Current US law bans abortions, in most cases, at military facilities – even if women pay for the procedure themselves. This means that serving women seeking an abortion are forced to go outside, to private hospitals or clinics, and this is pretty much impossible for most of the 100,000 American women serving overseas, especially those in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Advocates of the amendment say that the result of the current law is that military women serving overseas do not have the same access to basic health care as non-serving American women. On the other hand, opponents of the amendment believe that, because abortions would be performed in government facilities, taxpayer’s money would be helping to subsidise the underlying costs of the procedure.
According to the New York Times, supporters are ‘cautiously optimistic about [the amendment’s] chances in the full Senate this summer.’ Similar amendments have failed numerous times since the current ban was put in place in the 1990s, but obviously women have been out in Afghanistan for nine years now (seven in Iraq), and this is the first vote of its type since President Obama was elected to power.
This is obviously a controversial one –but to me it all boils down to one simple question and one simple answer – shouldn’t a woman who puts her life on the line in service to her country have the same access to health care as any other American woman? Passing the amendment and allowing privately-funded abortions to be performed at military facilities would allow women in need to receive the same type of care millions of US women already have access to.
The US military don’t make public the number of serving women that become pregnant each year in Iraq & Afghanistan. Regardless of the number though, an unwanted pregnancy, to a woman serving in a war zone, is both a personal and professional crisis. As there is no access to safe abortions, regulations state that a woman has to be flown home within 2 weeks of finding out she is pregnant – according to the New York Times, this is seen as a stigma and ends any future career advancement within the armed forces. It’s not hard to see why – we know that the ‘mommy track’, as it is known, pretty much kills off any chance of career advancement in certain civilian careers – so just imagine what it does if you’re working in the military.
Women, no matter what their job and no matter what their circumstances, should have access to health care that is fair and consistent and should be allowed to make their own choices about their body and reproductive rights without fear of ruining their career or risking their health. The current policy within the US military does not allow this, and needs to be overturned.
I’m not a US citizen though, and therefore I don’t pay taxes to the US government – so my personal view might not tally with what some of you guys, who do, think. What do you guys think – should the amendment be passed?