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Posts tagged ‘#DearJohn’

#DearJohn: Speaking of Releasing Your Privacy to Prove Rape…

National Guard members smear green and black camo paint onto their faces.So, according to the language of H.R. 3, the only way that a person would be able to have an abortion covered by any insurance covered under the new plan would be to prove rape, or incest if that person is still a minor.

This isn’t all that different from one of the military exeptioneer clauses, just strip down the uniform and still require the person to pay out of pocket. The only perk being that the rape survivor would still get to stride into a military hospital and slap the money down on the counter and say “one fetal ejection, please”. Odds dictate if this is the winning sitch, however, this servicemember has had a road, and is not in the normal range of people for whom this usually happens.

According to a Guttmacher report, the burden of unplanned pregnancy falls hardest on junior enlisted women. A junior enlisted person with three years’ experience makes about $23,000. (note: either Guttmacher is including Basic Allowances, or they are referring to E-5 personnel, according to a 2010 pay table. This is not, according to some branches, considered “junior enlisted”, but the pay amount still holds true. This would be, for some branches, a Non-Commissioned Officer, someone who holds responsibility in military rank structure, but who is still lower in the food-chain than the people above them. They are junior NCOs learning to be leaders. My point is, military people don’t make oodles of cash.)

The cost for an abortion increases with time, and a procedure that may cost about $450 dollars at 10 weeks may cost upwards of a military woman’s entire year’s salary by 20. Time is, literally, essential.

What H.R. 3 and the current policy on military abortions have in common is that they are going to (and already do) require a person to disclose and prove rape was a factor.

A military rape survivor must give up her right to a Restricted Report, telling people that she was raped in order to “prove” rape. “Forcible rape”. Whatever that means. Because you just can’t go around killin’ babies unless it was really “rape” rape. And all this time, her mental health and ability to do her job is all being questioned, and you can’t have a pregnant woman in certain places, so once she tells her commander that she was raped and is now pregnant with that rapist’s baby, she will be punished by losing her job and possibly being shipped back to the U.S. or some other unit. Maybe. Or she will just be set aside until someone can figure out “what to do with her”.

The cohesion of the unit will be disrupted, a replacement will have to be found (it costs about $50,000 to train a standard recruit from the ground up, provided they are not a specialist, like, say, a linguist!), and if that person is on a ship, or in a war zone, then they will have to be air lifted out.

If all of that manages to not happen, and she talks her commander, who is usually male and not trained in handling issues of the “lady nature”, she will be forced to disclose personal medical information to him, she will have to tell him who raped her. He will have to believe her. She will have to tolerate seeing her rapist questioned, and her whole unit taking sides (because, believe me, people talk), and she will be ostracized, even if the commander has the best of intentions.

And, undoubtedly, unit cohesion will be disrupted, and she will be trucked off to another place, because ladyfolk, we just screw up that stuff with our open legs.

Maybe she will get the chance to pay for her own abortion in a military hospital, maybe not.

Or, she may choose to stay quiet about the whole thing, beg her commander for leave if she can be spared, and spend that whole year’s salary to travel somewhere that has looser abortion laws and hope she can afford it. Like, maybe Japan. Or maybe home to the States if she can manage to go to a state that has decent reproductive health laws.

But going to another country to procure your abortion puts your life at risk, because differences in culture, medical practices, all under language barriers could cause complications. Some women may be reluctant to ask for help or escorts, and may not have extra cash for translators.

She may even try to self abort instead, if she thinks she has no other options.

The policy as it stands humiliates servicewomen, by forcing them to give up dignity that they struggle to grasp to hold onto as survivors in a world where they are already treated like they don’t belong. It prevents them from maintaining privacy. It places undue burden on them financially, and adds stress to them when they should be focused on their jobs.

Doubly (or more) so if they are rape survivors trying to prove they were “really raped”.

H.R. 3 stands to do similar to civilian women living in the U.S. It stands to harm all of us, and urging congress to say “Not in my backyard!” could help us.

But don’t forget the rest of us. The 15% of the less than one percent of the nation who are serving in uniform.

A full range of medical services, up to and including abortion, allows military women to keep their reproductive choices private and safe, and between them and their medical professionals, allowing them to get back to work more quickly and safely. It allows them to choose to whom and when they report their rapes. It allows them to exist in their world free from the scrutiny of those who would not believe them about their sexual assaults and rapes. It saves the military money, which has always been a Conservative bottom line, hasn’t it?

Except, apparently, when they can stomp on women’s rights.

As pointed out in this NARAL Fact sheet (pdf), repealing the abortion ban under the Burris Amendment would have cost no extra taxpayer money but it was stripped away. Allowing TRICARE to cover abortions is the proper thing to do. All abortions would have been pre-paid in the hospitals, and all three branches already had existing refusal clauses for medical staff (who, by the way, are already trained in abortion procedures in order to save lives, so, no extra tax dollars there).

But not even allowing military women or military dependent to pay for their own abortions with their own money in military hospitals is cruel, absurd, and sends the strong message that women’s health doesn’t matter. And that the military would rather pay for more maternity care, up to and including 18 years of pediatric medicine for an unwanted child than a simple, safe, and legal procedure.

Civilian family members, who do not have restricted reporting options for sexual assault and rape would benefit from this also while living overseas, and if the military really believes that taking care of military families is a military priority, this is a part of that plan that must be implemented.

In order to prove that the new Congress cares about more than just stomping on women, the only proper thing to do is to strike down H.R. 3 and repeal the military abortion ban, fully.

Both plans hurt rape survivors. Both strip people of their dignity. Both are fiscally irresponsible. Both send a clear message that Congress is more interested in stripping people of dignity and making their lives more difficult than solving matters of financial hardship or health care iniquity.

Follow #DearJohn on Twitter.

Photo Credit: The National Guard


#DearJohn: Military Women, Civilian Women, Shouldn’t Have to Justify Their Choices

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.

That’s right.

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.

We petitioned. We called Congresspersons. We asked for support from the social justice community. We tried. And when it came time for the vote, the chance for a change was stripped away again.

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.

Find the information for your Congressperson here.

Read about how your rape just isn’t rapey enough.

Follow the excitement on Twitter by following the hash tag #DearJohn, or tweeting your outrage to @SpeakerBoehner.

Sady and Garland Grey, thanks!

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