Em-URGE-ing Voices

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Support the Troops, Repeal Hyde

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September 30, 2013

What does it mean when you say, “support the troops?”

As a whole, the US has many supportive organizations for those who serve in the military and their families, everything from national campaigns for job placement to the USO providing services for families.

But what about abortion and reproductive care?

The Hyde Amendment of 1976, 37 years old this week, legislates that no federal funding goes towards abortion care, except in the cases of rape, incest and the immediate health of the mother. This impacts a variety of populations in the US, including Medicaid recipients, who have generally been the focus on the amendment. It is clear why Medicaid recipients would be the focus – as the most financially vulnerable population impacted by Hyde, they are faced with a plethora of barriers to reach abortion care.

While the discussion of low income people having access to abortion care is incredibly vital to why the Hyde Amendment is an injustice, who are we leaving out of the conversation?

I find that individuals that serve in the military are left out when talking about the Hyde Amendment. This is especially horrifying when considering the high (and increasing) rates of sexual assault in the military.

Recently, things have improved for abortion access in the military, but it’s only a beginning. Previously, military insurance only covered abortions performed to save the life of the mother. Now, with the passage of the Shaheen Amendment, military insurance will have to pick up the cost of abortions performed not only to save the life of the mother, but in cases of rape and incest as well. Although this is a good step in the right direction, it is not enough. What about the complexity of reporting a case, especially when the assailant is higher up in the chain of command? What about the stigma that accusers face? And what about those who haven’t been raped and need an abortion for other reasons?

Unintended pregnancy while in service could mean a number of things. It could mean giving up your career, the possibility of having college tuition covered by the GI Bill, and dealing with the shame and stigma around unintended pregnancy.

Of course, having the coverage for abortion is just one obstacle for people who choose to terminate their pregnancies in the military, access to high quality care may be in an issue. Doctors in the military may not even be trained to perform abortions, with doctors who perform abortions being scarce, especially on a military base. This is not including the state of abortion care in other countries where military personnel may be stationed.

This is just one of many political attacks on women in the military.  Women have often been casted as not capable of direct combat or even serving in the military at all.

As a country, we pay a lot of lip service to supporting those who serve in the military, but we lack social security nets outside of charity. Military veterans have disproportionate rates of suicide, post-traumatic stress disorder, unemployment and homelessness, which is experienced more in veterans who are people of color.

The ultimate irony is that while millions of “support the troops” ribbons will be displayed this year, there is a complete lack of support for comprehensive medical and reproductive medical services for military personnel.

Want to truly support your troops? Write to your senator and ask them to commit to repealing the Hyde Amendment. Find your senator here.

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