Thanks in part to a zealotry that wraps itself in the guise of prohibiting public funding for abortions in any way, shape or form, many women in the military are unable to get basic reproductive health care, even if they become victims of sexual assault. Now two Democratic senators are trying to change that rule by introducing the Military Access to Reproductive Care and Health (MARCH) for Military Women Act.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) recently introduced legislation (H.R. 2085) — the Military Access to Reproductive Care and Health (MARCH) for Military Women Act — that would allow servicewomen to use private funds to obtain abortion care at military health facilities and lift the ban that denies U.S. servicewomen and dependents insurance coverage for abortion services in cases of rape or incest, the Washington Independent reports. Under a policy first put in place during the Reagan administration, the provision of abortion services is prohibited at Department of Defense facilities, even if women use their own money to pay for the procedure. As a result, servicewomen must use local facilities or request combat leave to travel out of the country for abortion care (Resnick, Washington Independent, 6/7). In countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq, there are no local facilities where women can obtain safe abortion care, according to Gillibrand spokesperson Bethany Lesser (Tumulty, Air Force Times/USA Today, 6/6).
To deny a woman access to legal, safe reproductive health care, even if that woman pays out of pocket, and even if she is the victim of sexual assault, is beyond the pale. We need to treat the women who serve our country with respect, not deny them basic rights over bodily autonomy.