The abortion ban in the United States will prove especially difficult for servicewomen, who endure sexual assault and unexpected pregnancies at a higher rate than the rest of society. Following the Supreme Court’s momentous decision to eliminate constitutional safeguards for abortion rights, Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin committed to reassessing Pentagon policy.
Currently, over 230,000 women serve in the United States military, and a 1976 rule allows military doctors to perform abortions only in situations of confirmed rape, incest, or if the mother’s life is in danger. Because many of these women are serving in conservative states like Texas or Kentucky, which have implemented wide abortion prohibitions, they will have to go out of state to find a civilian clinic that performs the surgery.
They will need to take time off work, which may jeopardise their jobs, as well as cover medical and travel expenditures on their meagre military pay. Not only that but they will be required to reveal sexual behaviour, which is prohibited in the military. Women in the United States Army are primarily young and of reproductive age, with 75% of new recruits being under the age of 22.
According to a 2018 study published in the journal Trauma, Violence, and Abuse, nearly one-quarter of women have experienced military sexual trauma, and they are hesitant to seek treatment from a military doctor because they are required to report the assault and ordered an investigation, and most cases of sexual abuse in the military are committed by superior officers.
The survey also discovered that servicewomen avoid going to military doctors for contraception that requires a doctor’s prescription in the US. According to another research published in the journal Military Medicine in 2020, women serving in the United States Navy are chastised for sexual behaviour during month-long deployments. Democratic legislators in the House of Representatives have presented legislation to extend abortion access inside the military health care system, since women in the military experience unplanned pregnancy at a rate that is 22% higher than civilians.