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Abortion coverage for rape victims in the military [Most commented]

June 30, 2011 |  3:56 pm

Military abortionLawrence J. Korb, an assistant secretary of Defense from 1981 to 1985 and a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, hit an uncomfortable nerve in his Op-Ed Thursday, discussing the lack of medical coverage for abortions in the military. Legislation recently introduced in the House and Senate, the MARCH  (Military Access to Reproductive Care and Health) for Military Women Act, would cover abortion in cases of rape and allow servicewomen to use their own funds for the procedure in military facilities, Korb writes.

The issue of abortion coverage is especially important because the incidence of sexual violence in the armed services persists. Despite the Pentagon's no-tolerance policy toward sexual assault, more than 3,000 cases were reported last year. The overwhelming majority of victims were women under the age of 25 and from junior enlisted ranks. In fact, the actual rates of assault are estimated to be at least four times higher because women often do not report such abuse out of concern that it could negatively affect or even destroy their careers.

The lack of abortion coverage is grossly unfair not least because U.S. servicewomen are uniquely denied coverage in cases of rape. Other federal employees and civilian women who obtain their healthcare through federal programs such as Medicaid, Medicare, Indian Health Services and the federal prisons all receive abortion coverage in cases of rape. 

The piece sparked some interesting discussion among readers, though most steered clear of the issue of rape and stuck to discussing abortion.

A system that allowed abortion could be abused

When a female gets pregnant underway or on deployment, she gets sent home. They do not get replaced and everyone in the unit has to make up for her leaving. Imagine if they provided abortions on ship, or in the field. How many junior enlisted females would get pressured to have an abortion by their immediate senior NCO and get back to work? How many junior officers would get an abortion so they can avoid a black mark on their career of having not completed an assignment? I see a lot of potential for abuse if the military got into the abortion business


There isn't an epidemic of sexual assaults; certain sectors of the military should be segregated

To read Lawrence Korb's editorial, you'd think there was epidemic of women being raped in the military -- presumably mostly by their male co-workers.  I'm not sure if this is the case, but if it is, it hardly supports his assertion that the more women we have serving in uniform the better.

Korb uses the word "rape" six times in his op-ed (seven, if you count the Times photo caption).  I don't know the exact number of women in uniform who are currently pregnant as a direct result of rape, but I don't have a problem with the government providing an abortion in such cases.  That said, Korb's two main points seem to be to call attention to how horribly women in the military are being treated, and how wonderful it is that we have lots of women serving in the military.  If you can sort those thoughts out, you're better than I am.

Not to put too fine a point on the matter, but there is a REASON we have mostly men serving in the armed forces, and it has nothing to do with outmoded notions of proper gender roles: the average man has about twice the upper body strength as the average women.  Such disparities don't come into play that often if you are a nurse or a helicopter pilot, but it can make the difference between life and death if you need to throw a grenade over a hill or carry a wounded soldier back to safety.

When I was in the Navy, women could not serve on combat vessels, and for good reason: invariably when women are introduced into that sort of environment, sexual intercourse starts happening -- though you tell everybody they mustn't have sex with their shipmates (how ironic), and they obediently and earnestly nod their heads and promise, double-triple-cross-their-hearts, not to let it happen.  The inevitable result of an all-powerful Mother Nature asserting her supreme will is a general breakdown of discipline and an eruption of administrative headaches that the military, already being stretched beyond its limits, simply isn't equipped to deal with.

On balance, the limited presence of females in the military is a plus, but there are many areas that segregation of the sexes just makes sense.  Based on my personal observations, I would say that aircraft carriers and submarines (and the like) should be all-male.  It's not fair in terms of equal opportunity for employment, but it is a matter of practical necessity that, first and foremost, we have a military that is designed around the concept of optimal efficiency.  The U.S. military should not be treated as laboratory in which politicians can conduct a never-ending series of social experiments.


Brushing this under the carpet won't change things,in response to GregMaragos

This article is more about the consequences of rape than it is about consensual sex, so I am coming from that viewpoint for my rebuttal:

I am not in favor of excusing bad behavior with the excuse that "all-powerful Mother Nature" made them do it. While I agree that in some circumstances, segregation may be necessary to simplify things, it seems to me that your argument comes perilously close to excusing rape on the grounds that if you mix physically powerful men with smaller women, rape is just what will happen.

Boys will be boys, right?

It doesn't have to be like that, and brushing it under the carpet or excusing it does not help facilitate change. 

We are not at the point where it is safe to have a mixed crew on aircraft carriers and submarines -- that, I admit, is true. Unfortunately, the reason is because of mindsets like I have illustrated above. Someday, we should be able to furnish a balanced crew. Women bring many good tools to the table to make up for the smaller physical strength.

I DO think that women on active duty should be on the shot while deployed, and I DO think it should be part of the terms of employment. We need to not lose our service personnel like that -- plan your pregnancies for after your tour, ladies!

That does not excuse the man's part of the equation. Someone is getting these women pregnant. It takes two.


If they fund abortions, they stop getting my tax dollars

When they start using my tax dollars to fund abortions they stop getting my tax dollars. When they require military doctors to start performing abortions against their conscience they stop getting military doctors.

--Prince albert

Health insurance doesn't cover voluntary procedures

Last I checked, my insurance didn't pay for elective procedures either.  Isn't that what pro-choice means?  They have the right to get an abortion, but their insurer does not have to pay for it until it becomes something that is no longer elective (a threat to the woman's health).  Sounds about right to me.  A separate policy for rape should be carefully considered.


*Spelling errors in the above comments were corrected.


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Women account for nearly 15% of active-duty military and National Guard troops, and nearly 20% of the reserves of all branches. Credit: Jessica Kenyon / Associated Press


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