The Other Front: U.S. Servicewomen Denied Abortion Coverage

Posted on May 30, 2012


ACLU of Northern California by Jessica Kenyon

I was raped by a fellow soldier when I was stationed in Korea. I found out I was pregnant as a result of the rape when my commander called me into his office one day to charge me with adultery. A doctor at the medical center had told my commander — but not me — that I was pregnant. I hadn’t reported the rape because I was trying to “soldier on” and I didn’t trust my chain of command. As it turns out I was not charged, not because I was raped, but because I was divorced.

Then I faced the fact that military health insurance doesn’t allow abortion coverage in cases of rape, and I was unable to have a safe abortion off-base, so I was stuck. I was discharged from the military due to the trauma of the rape . . . and ended up miscarrying.

Denying abortion coverage to rape survivors is a serious injustice to those who are honorably serving our country. This is especially true when a woman’s risk of being sexually assaulted more than doubles when she joins the military. Women who are deployed overseas or to remote areas of the U.S., like Alaska, face an added burden when there are no other safe medical facilities. The military is effectively asking women who serve to completely disregard their health and rights, no matter the circumstances. The blatant sexism and lack of accountability in the military has created an environment in which women are treated as if they are less than men.

Our elected leaders should not deny military women access to the same care available to the civilian population we protect.

Jessica Kenyon served in the U.S. Army and is the founder
of BenefitingVeterans.org and MilitarySexualTrauma.org,
two online support networks. This commentary was adapted
from Jessica’s recent post on the ACLU’s Blog of Rights.

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Posted in: United States