A Barrier Drops for Military Women [nytimes.com]

A small but important provision of the military budget bill just signed by President Obama ends a longstanding act of discrimination against women who serve in America’s military.

Offered by Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a New Hampshire Democrat, the provision lifts a statutory ban on giving female service members insurance coverage for abortions in cases of rape and incest. Since 1988, military health plans have paid for abortions only when a pregnancy endangers a women’s life.

That policy was all the more unjustifiable given the serious and continuing problem of sexual assault among service members, and in light of the more respectful treatment accorded civilians who work for the federal government or rely on Medicaid. These nonsoldiers are allowed to use their government insurance to pay for abortions in cases of rape as well as in life-threatening situations.

The new provision does not end the difficulty that military women have in accessing safe abortion care. Next, Congress and the administration must end another longstanding restriction that prevents servicewomen from obtaining abortions at military hospitals and clinics, even if the women pay the bill. Current law bans abortions at military facilities, except in instances of rape or incest, or when a pregnancy threatens a woman’s life.

The rule is a special hardship for servicewomen stationed in foreign countries, particularly in a war zone like Afghanistan. Women serving overseas should have the same basic health care that other American women enjoy and should not have to risk their health, privacy or future career advancement in order to exercise a constitutionally protected right.

Two New York Democrats, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Representative Louise Slaughter, will soon be reintroducing legislation to allow women to obtain abortions on military bases with private funds. It asks members of Congress to stop burdening soldiers with ideological restrictions on their health care.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/05/opinion/a-barrier-drops-for-military-women.html?_r=0

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