You may have heard of this act that is attempting to sneak its way through Congress right now, with my new BFF John Boehner (don’t worry, Elaine Donnelly, I haven’t forgotten ya! XOXO) taking up the gavel as the 2011 model of Speaker. If anyone were to ask my opinion, I would say we have gone from a nice comfy, family SUV that maybe didn’t always get us from point A to point B but worked out OK, to a gas guzzler that doesn’t have enough straps for car seats. Not family friendly.
Our Dear Mr. Boehner is trying to do to civilian women living in the U.S. what has been going on with U.S. servicewomen for a very long time, as well as woman and girl family members. For all the hemming and hawing I hear about how the military enjoys its great free health care (I don’t know how “free” it is, because we certainly earn it), I think that a lot of people don’t realize how limited the choices of that health care are for women.
Just last year women in uniform and their families were able to guarantee that they could access the emergency contraceptive pill known as “Plan B” in the U.S. at every military treatment facility world wide. It is now part of the formulary, or the list of medications that must be stocked wherever medications are stocked. And everyone over the age of 17 is able to get it over-the-counter as long as they have a military identification card.
But abortion is another topic altogether. And while the fight is going on at home, I think it might be a good time for those of us in social justice who have a hand in the fight for reproductive justice to know a few things about the access to abortion in military facilities.
While the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” is trying to hack away at your reproductive justice, our reproductive rights have been held hostage for a long time. Since 1979 to be exact. That is when Congress decided that military hospitals would not be allowed to provide abortions except in cases of rape, incest or if your life was really, really, in danger. That last one there is totally up for discussion, because it is really up to whatever doctor you get strapped onto to decide to declare if your life is in danger. And “abortion” is anything from evacuating an already still fetus that is causing you to start running an infection to an abortion that could allow you to start a treatment like dialysis or cancer treatment. The doctor’s word is the final say.
If you are a rape survivor who doesn’t wish to disclose the crime committed against ou to anyone and ou wind up pregnant, you are out of luck. No abortion for you. You not only have to admit you were raped, but finger your rapist, prove you were raped, and then maybe you can have your abortion. Oh, but you still have to pay for it out of your own pocket. Given the rate at which rapists in the ranks are actually referred for NJP (hint: it’s small — about 10%) and the threat of ostracization from peers, I don’t think that it is any wonder that some women have tried to take things into their own hands rather than go that route.
In the U.S. it is all hunky dory for some servicemembers, because there is a chance that you can access an abortion clinic or other facility that will accept your insurance or that you can afford. But if you are stationed in a country where abortion is outlawed, such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Djibouti, or even Republic of Korea, there is no off-base abortion access waiting for you. Instead, and holy Ceiling Cat I feel like a broken record, you must first obtain permission from your command and hope that they believe whatever excuse you have come up with, hope like hell you have funds for travel to the nearest country where it is legal, and that you make it all in a time-frame that makes it still safe and legal for you to obtain the procedure. All because you can’t even use your own money in a military treatment facility.
You can’t even use your own damned money to access an abortion if you are in the military and stationed overseas.
We keep trying to get this repealed, and every time Republicans block this, because military women don’t deserve a full range of health care, even if it is equal to that of the women in the country they are representative of. They are not allowed to receive a safe and legal medical procedure that is available in their home country from a medical team already trained to perform it from that country.
So I am not exactly surprised to see more of the same ol’ from our Dear Speaker Boehner, trying to pass this H.R. 3.
What I want is simple.
I want access for everyone. What I really want is single-payer access with a full range of services for everyone, but I will be realistic.
I want Boehner to stop telling women what ‘real’ rape is. I want him to stop chipping away at our rights. I want the reassurance that if I want or need an abortion I do not have to fly to Japan or all the way back to the States to get one, on my own dime. I want women to stop killing themselves because they are desperate to not be forced into being incubators.
And I want to work together with those of you who want to convince your Congresscritters that this is a good idea.
Call your Congressperson. Tell them that Speaker Boehner has no right to make decisions on behalf of other people’s bodies. That his contempt for the lives of women is showing though loud and clear with every attempt he makes at stripping our rights away.
But when you call, or write, or however you communicate with them, telling them that they should not strip abortion access away, remember to tell them that disallowing servicewomen, who are serving their country every day and facing unplanned or unwanted or live-threatening pregnancies just like their civilian counterparts, to access abortion by paying with their own funds is absurd. It is beyond absurd. Tell them that it is unacceptable. At least as unacceptable as stripping abortion coverage from health insurance, because that is what it has been to us — having a medical procedure stripped from our health care coverage.
Please. If we work together, I believe we can be stronger. We let Republicans strip, again, a bill that would have restored medical services to servicewomen and family members, and I believe that somehow they have it in their heads that it means that we don’t care enough to stop them this time. We need to tell Dearest Speaker John that he isn’t getting away with this.
Follow the excitement on Twitter by following the hash tag #DearJohn, or tweeting your outrage to @SpeakerBoehner.
Sady and Garland Grey, thanks!