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.
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Photo Credit: The National Guard