Political Animal


May 26, 2012 2:07 PM Senate Committee Votes to Support All Our Troops With Shaheen Amendment

By Adele Stan

If you’re a member of the U.S. military and you happen to be a woman, you might think you were entitled to the full range of health care allowed your civilian counterparts. But you would be wrong. That’s why Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., crafted an amendment to the National Defense Appropriation Act that would grant, according to the Ms. magazine Web site:

the same rights as civilian women under federal policies that provide affordable abortion care to women who are the victims of rape or incest. Under the current policy, servicewomen are only eligible for abortion care if the woman’s life is at risk.

On Thursday, just in time for the Memorial Day weekend, the Senate Armed Services Committee approved the amendment by a 16-10 vote. The measure must next move to the Senate floor, and faces an uncertain future if, as expected, the appropriations bill goes to a joint conference. (The House bill is not expected to include a similar provision.)

Currently, abortions are forbidden to military personnel unless they are victims of sexual assault rape or the pregnancy endangers their lives. But if the pregnancy is the result of a rape the soldier, sailor or Marine must pay for her own abortion — a cost that can be prohibitive on a military paycheck. And in a war zone, a woman in uniform will likely find no civilian medical professionals available to her who will perform the procedure.

This is all the more galling when one considers the epidemic of sexual assault against military women that continues to grip the armed forces — assaults perpetrated by men who are supposed to be their comrades.

In 2009, reporting for CBS News, Katie Couric delivered this statistic:

One in three female soldiers will experience sexual assault while serving in the military, compared to one in six women in the civilian world.

And the numbers haven’t changed much. Because of the stigma attached to reporting one’s rape by a fellow soldier, it’s not unheard of for a woman made pregnant through rape to try to self abort. (For one account, see Kathryn Joyce’s outstanding 2009 article, “Military Abortion Ban: Female Soldiers Not Protected by Constitution They Defend,” at Religion Dispatches.)

If Congress really wants to show its appreciation to all of our troops, it will pass the appropriations bill with the Shaheen amendment in tact. But with this Congress, whose freshmen claim to love, love them some Constitution, military women will likely learn the limits of the right-wing version of the U.S. Constitution. (Now, what do you need all those rights, for, little lady?)


  • c u n d gulag on May 26, 2012 3:16 PM:

    Hokey Smokes, Bullwinkle!

    Thanks, Adele,
    OMG! This the first I've ever heard that!

    What an absolute pathetic joke of a country we are to lecture others about Human and Civil Rights, when women in our OWN military don't have the "choice" to make their own choices?
    FSM, what a feckin' nation of stooooopid motherfecker's we are!

    Well, I sure hope the Generals, Admirals, and all of the male military personnel of all ranks, don't have the right to free, or low cost, "quicker-pecker-uppers," for when their little soldier isn't able to follow it's orders!!!

    Fortunately, I live in NY, so I'm pretty sure Chuckles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand are behind this. I'll check on it, but I can't see why they wouldn't be.

    But good luck getting this through The Reacionary Ol' Boys Club' that is our Senate.

    I can see the Senate's 'usual suspects' screaming about "LIFE," and how Christ would be against this, and freedom of religion, and speech, and militry order, and every other lame and stupid trope and meme they've trotted out over the last 40 years to keep the ignorati good and divided and conquered!

    Call your reactionary misogynist Senator, e-mail them - better yet, send a letter via snail mail!

    Then they make think you're the kind of computer illiterate ancient doofus who usually votes FOR them, and are disagreeing with them.

    THAT ought to confuse 'the stupid!'

  • Walker on May 26, 2012 6:22 PM:

    Currently, abortions are forbidden to military personnel unless they are victims of sexual assault or the pregnancy endangers their lives. But if the pregnancy is the result of a rape the soldier, sailor or Marine must pay for her own abortion

    I am confused. Since when is rape not an instance of sexual assault.

  • Adele Stan on May 27, 2012 8:29 AM:

    Sorry, Walker, just some bad sentence construction on my part. What the second sentence infers is that a pregnancy resulting from a sexual assault was necessarily conceived via rape. A woman member of the armed forces who finds herself so impregnated must pay for her own abortion; the military will not cover the cost, even if the accused is a fellow member of the military. If she doesn't dare to make the rape accusation for fear of reprisal, or is simply pregnant due to consensual sex (horrors!), she must seek the abortion outside the military medical system. If she's stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan, that pretty much means she's on her own. The soldier in Kathryn Joyce's story lamented that wire coat-hangers were not available to her in Iraq.