Editorial / San Francisco Chroncile – 2011-06-04 22:56:38
SAN FRANCISCO (June 3, 2011) — First we learn that women in the US military are more likely to be raped by their fellow soldiers than killed by enemy fighters. Then we find out that military health coverage does not cover abortion in the case of rape. Last week, the most recent congressional attempt to change military policy on abortion was silenced.
Why is women’s military service not deemed worthy of the same health care coverage offered other female federal employees?
“We’re abandoning these women who are sacrificing their lives for their country. If anything, we should go out of our way to accommodate them,” said Rep. Susan Davis, D-San Diego, who tried last week to introduce an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to allow abortion coverage in the case of rape or incest. The measure was shut down without debate by the GOP-controlled House Rules Committee. There was no public explanation for that decision.
Even the Hyde Amendment and its successors, which bar expenditure of federal monies for abortion, allow coverage in the case of rape or incest. Yet since 1981, military policy has banned government health care coverage for abortions except when the mother’s life is endangered.
As a point of simple fairness, it is not right that the federal government covers abortion in the instance of rape for other federal employees, Medicaid recipients and those serving time in federal prisons, but not for female service members.
It is unconscionable, given as we learned from testimony by Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, that when a woman joins the military, her risk of sexual assault doubles.
It is an abuse of power by Congress over these women’s lives. Most sexual assault victims are young, low-ranking enlisted women, according to a Department of Defense survey.
If they become pregnant, they must pay for the abortion. If they are deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan, they must return to the United States. Because they are earning less pay and often come from modest-income families, they typically have to delay medical care until they can raise enough money.
The military, which relies on honor and unit cohesion to accomplish its mission of protecting the nation, is unfair to women in uniform by denying them support available to others. Instead of shutting down debate, Congress needs to speak up and change this policy.
(c) 2011 Hearst Communications Inc.