Abortion: another obstacle for the American military to overcome

The end of abortion rights in the United States threatens to hit women in the military particularly, who face yet another hurdle to surmount in order to thrive in a man’s world where the incidence of sexual assault and the rate of unwanted pregnancies remain higher than that national average.

• Also read: Abortion pills, the next battleground in the United States

• Also read: “The ban on abortion won’t stop them”

As soon as the announcement of the Supreme Court’s task in Roe v. Wade,” which guaranteed abortion rights in the United States, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin promised to review Pentagon regulations to “ensure we continue to provide easy access to care.”

However, he did not announce any action to help the roughly 230,000 women who serve in the US Army when, under a 1976 law, the military health care system is only allowed to perform abortions in cases of proven rape or incest, or when the life of the mother is at stake Game.

However, the most conservative American states – which have announced immediate or very near abortion bans – are home to large military bases, such as Texas (Fort Hood).

As a result, like the rest of the population, women assigned to these bases who wish to have an abortion must take several days off to change states at their own expense and find a civilian clinic that performs abortions.

But “I think it’s going to be a little more difficult for military wives,” Julie, a military nurse who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP. Salaries in the army are not high, she explains, and women are reluctant to ask for leave because they have to say why and because they fear for their careers.

“I worry that women will turn to dangerous practices so they don’t have to disclose why they need four or five days off…if they have to go to another state, two or three states over,” she adds.

Women make up just 17% of US military personnel, but it’s a young population of childbearing age (75% of new recruits are under 22 years old), and nearly 25% of them have been victims of assaults, according to a 2018 analysis in the military, the journal Trauma, Violence and Abuse.

But even in the case of rape, women are reluctant to contact a military doctor who would have a duty to order an investigation into the assault. In fact, most sexual assaults in the military are committed by a superior.

Another obstacle to be overcome is that women in the military are reluctant to have contraceptives prescribed by military medicine because of the discouragement of sexual activity in the ranks, especially during deployments.

According to a 2020 study published by the journal Military Medicine, based on voluntary testimonies from 319 military women, women are generally reprimanded for sexual activity while on deployment, including on training deployments, sometimes lasting several months, especially in the military. leaving marks on her record and slowing down possible promotions.

“And even if they are not officially punished, a great black cloud hangs over those who become pregnant on a mission,” testifies a US Navy reservist in this study. “It’s unlikely they’ll get the transfer they want or be highly rated.”

House Democrats have introduced a bill that would allow military medicine to perform abortions.

Military wives “have a 22% higher rate of unwanted pregnancies than civilians,” said one of the people behind the text, California official-elect Jackie Speier, who introduced the bill in early June. “Our servicewomen deserve the same access to basic medical care as the populations they protect in combat.”

At the same time, in a letter released in mid-June, the elected Democrats urged the secretary of defense to make it easier for military women to have access to abortion, particularly through reimbursement of the travel expenses of those who would have to change states. or even countries to obtain an abortion.

Contraception is not 100% reimbursed by US military insurance, which Democrats are also trying to change.

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