Watching the House of Representatives debate HR 3, the No Tax Payer Funding for Abortion, it was clear that those in support of the bill are tacitly ignoring the needs and rights of the most vulnerable of American women. In the midst of a dizzyingly repetitive debate from both sides, Representative Bruce Braley of Iowa reminded the House of Representatives about a particularly vulnerable group of American women that are being left behind . . . by the government and by their fellow citizens. These are our women in uniform. Watch the video here.
A few quick facts:
Women cannot get abortions on military bases unless it is a case of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother, and only the last case is covered by the military. Period. House republicans are seeking to further limit abortion access, an unthinkable attack on our women in uniform and wives and daughters in military families.
Servicewomen who become pregnant while serving in theaters of war or countries where abortion is either illegal or highly dangerous therefore have no choice but to carry the child to term or risk severe health problems from trying to self abort or from getting an abortion from an unlicensed or inexperienced local physician. A horrific story circulated last year about an active duty marine in Fallujah who attempted to give herself an abortion with the cleaning rod from her rifle.
This doesn’t just go for servicewomen; it goes for wives and daughters in military families as well. Another story tells the harrowing experience of a woman forced to carry a fetus diagnosed with life threatening defects to term, knowing full well it would be still born, because she and her active duty husband could not afford to fly her from the Philippines to Japan to receive a safe, legal abortion with their own funds.
What’s even more infuriating is that the abortion restriction isn’t just some antiquated throwback to a male-dominated military history. Up until 1988, women could use their own funds to get an abortion. Congress failed to pass the Burris Amendment, introduced last year, which sought to return the military to the pre-1988 policy of allowing women to pay up front to exercise their constitutional right to an abortion.
There has been much conversation about the hypocrisy of the anti-choice movement that seeks to simultaneously deny a woman’s right to choose and a woman’s right to be educated about her sexuality and reproductive potential and deny her access to contraceptives and sexual health care. The hypocrisy continues with calls for commitment to our troops while denying servicewomen their constitutional right to make choices about their own bodies. SWAN is hopeful that current debate and the push of legislative measures seeking to aid and support servicewomen will create an atmosphere conducive to righting this wrong.