Young Voices

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Justice is being raped - twice over

Imagine. You are a young female soldier over in Iraq. Your deployment has been pushed back time and time again. You are tired, over-worked and miss your family and comforts of home. Then the unthinkable happens. You are raped by one of your superior officers.

And as if things couldn't get any worse you find out you are pregnant. You debate the situation over and over again in your head, until you finally come to the hardest decision you've ever had to make in your life. You, as a free-thinking, rational individual opt to have an abortion, only to be turned away by your military base's hospital facilities. Your options are either to continue with the pregnancy, venture out into the unsafe, underdeveloped medical facilities that exist in Iraq, scrounge up enough money to fly back home or, worst-case scenario, perform an abortion on yourself.

This is the current situation women serving in the military overseas are faced with each day as they risk their lives for our freedom. This is the current situation military dependents overseas are faced with even though abortion was made legal in the U.S. in 1973 with Roe v. Wade.

But apparently, the Bush-backed military doesn't think it has to play by the rules of the U.S. Constitution.

President Clinton lifted the ban on abortions at U.S. military hospitals in 1993, right after he took office. However, two years later in 1995, the Republican-controlled Congress reinstituted the ban. In 1988, President Reagan instituted an exception to the abortion ban, which permitted the procedure to save a woman's life or end unwanted pregnancies which were caused by incest or rape.

But still there is a run-around, according to Military.com, even in such cases of rape and incest; most military health insurance doesn't cover the procedure (which costs between $325 - $650).

And since the ban was put into affect, several senators, both Republican and Democrat, have tried to amend the ban, with no avail.

According to Military.com, most servicewomen who became pregnant between the '50s and early '70s faced expulsion. However, after Roe v. Wade, military hospitals started providing the procedure, and many times pregnant soldiers were pressured into having abortions to prevent from facing discharge. And now, in 2004, the testosterone-overloaded military has forced its strong hand down on women's wombs, forcing them into silence, with no choice.

Many supporters of the ban feel women in combat overseas shouldn't need access to abortions because of access to birth control and restrictions on sexual relations in combat zones. However, with 15 percent of the military made up of women, many women's organizations are concerned about this abortion ban because of the large rates of rape and coerced sex which occur each year inside military bases...

The idea of restricting women from one of their fundamental rights as U.S. citizens seems more bizarre when servicewomen are not even granted the right to an abortion in U.S. military hospitals - even if they offer to pay for it out of their own pockets. And the situation becomes even more ridiculous when you realize military health coverage covers vasectomies, liposuction, breast implants and nose jobs.

Yes, breast implants. A woman is allowed to move from cup size A to C, whereas she is not allowed to choose whether or not she wants to procreate.

Women serving overseas are being treated like second-class citizens, unable to seek the reproductive health care that is most appropriate for their bodies. The bottom line is that U.S. servicewomen and military dependents should have the same constitutional rights to access to safe medical procedures overseas as they would receive at a clinic in their town.

But instead, the ban is bringing back the use of coat hangers, in the form of restrictions, that leave these women's lives hanging in the balance.

* Tiffany Cornelius is a student journalist at Buena Vista University.