US Servicewomen Are Denied Abortions in Cases of Rape, Incest

Credit: ellsworth.af.mil[/caption]

The Republican National Convention drew to a close last week with full media attention. However, a non-partisan advocacy group hopes to redirect some of the focus from politicos to another issue. Capitalizing on viewers tuning into the RNC, Stand With Servicewomen launched a television ad campaign in Tampa to draw attention to the fact servicewomen are denied abortions even in cases of rape and incest.

Currently, a servicewoman is only covered for an abortion if the woman’s life is in danger. If the servicewoman is raped, she must pay out-of-pocket for an abortion procedure. Women covered by Medicaid, and soon Obamacare, are eligible for federally funded abortions in cases of rape or incest – but not female soldiers or dependents. If the servicewoman’s life is not in danger, and she is unable to pay for the abortion herself, the current law would have her carry an unwanted, rape induced pregnancy to full term; thereby forcing the woman to take a leave from her service.

Stand With Servicewomen promotes two amendments to correct the current disparity in women’s health insurance coverage. US servicewomen are currently the only class of women under federal health insurance who aren’t covered in case of rape or incest. Stand With Servicewomen believes that female soldiers and dependents deserve the same rights granted to every other class of female US citizen. They encourage supporters to reach out to their local politicians and demand amendments to the law. The Shahenn Amendment and the MARCH Act would rectify the language in 10 USC 1093(a & b), allowing for federally funded abortions in the case of rape or incest.

Credit: standwithservicewomen.org

The advertisements, funded by the ACLU, ran throughout the RNC in the Tampa area, and will also run during the DNC in Charlotte, North Carolina. One ad depicts 3 servicewomen (identified as Dottie Guy, Kayla Williams and Shannon Clark) reciting the following dialogue:

As a soldier in Iraq, I put my life on the line to protect and defend my country. I fought for the freedom and justice our country stands for. Yet I’m denied proper reproductive health care benefits; denied abortion care even if I’m the victim of rape. I expected the horror of war in Iraq – but I expected better from my own government.

Rape is a problem for servicewomen in the U.S. military. It is a problem which is not easily solved by the Department of Defense, especially when rape cases go woefully unreported and are most often committed by fellow soldiers. However, by amending 10 USC 1093(a &b), the Department of Defense could make a difference in the lives of servicewomen.