Abortions for soldiers at US military bases?
The so-called Burris amendment would allow pregnant servicewomen to get abortions at US military facilities. A US Army soldier says this move, while well-intentioned, would end up hurting women.
In late May, the Senate Armed Services Committee approved an amendment that could create significant changes for pregnant servicewomen, especially those stationed overseas. Sen. Roland Burris (D) of Illinois added language to the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act that would allow US military health facilities to provide abortions for servicewomen.Skip to next paragraph
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The full Senate will decide the fate of the amendment soon.
Though well-intentioned, a policy to allow abortions at military bases and hospitals will almost certainly create a more hostile environment for pregnant servicewomen.
Women who get pregnant while deployed or before deployment often come under a great deal of scrutiny and are often stigmatized by both their peers and leaders, alike. This often occurs regardless of the circumstances involved in the pregnancy.
A prime example of such stigmatization occured last November, when a major general in command of operations in northern Iraq established a policy that threatened servicewoman with court martial and possible prison time if they became pregnant. The policy was created to discourage soldiers from intentionally getting pregnant to avoid deployment.
As detrimental as it can be for a deployed unit to lose a soldier due to pregnancy, this approach is very disturbing because of the way it treats women. Due to the public and political outcry, that policy lasted less than two months. Unfortunately, the mind-set behind the idea is still very much alive and has an enormous impact on pregnant servicewoman.
Current US military policy removes females from combat areas within 14 days of a pregnancy being confirmed. As much as these circumstances may frustrate or anger commanders, leaders and peers, this policy protects what matters most: the well-being of a mother and her unborn child.
This policy – in conjunction with the military’s ban on providing abortions at bases – provides both the soldier who seeks to keep her child and the soldier who chooses to have an abortion the opportunity to leave the stress of combat before making a final decision. The decision to have an abortion, as saddening as such a choice is to me, should not be made in a combat environment.
An issue of fairness?
The president of Planned Parenthood claims that soldiers’ lack of access to abortions is “an issue of basic fairness.”
But is it really fair to keep a pregnant woman in a combat environment and miles away from her family and friends who would better serve as unbiased supporters of such an important decision? If America’s political leaders really care about the soldier, they should insist that such a decision be made at home with family and outside of the arena of combat and governmental influence.
Supporters claim that the amendment is intended to help women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan who face mistreatment when they get pregnant. It is argued that by providing access to abortions at military facilities servicewomen are given an opportunity to avoid such mistreatment.