Guest columnist Sylvia Ghazarian: Access to abortion care is essential to supporting military personnel and their families

Women in the military shouldn\’t have to worry about whether or not they have access to health care depending on where they are stationed or deployed. Nor should it be a service member family. Kim, former US Army officer and veteran activist

The US military is one of the largest employers in the world, with more than 1.3 million active duty personnel and millions more veterans and their families. It is important that military personnel who have served the country bravely have access to comprehensive health care, including abortion assistance, regardless of where they are stationed or deployed.

This is especially crucial given the barriers to accessing abortion care that military personnel often face due to restrictive policies on funding abortion.

Tricare, the military health insurance program, does not currently cover all abortions, and in cases where the pregnancy poses a risk to the pregnant woman\’s health or life, a doctor must certify that the abortion is necessary. This policy undermines the reproductive rights and privacy of military personnel and puts their health and well-being at risk.

In addition, military personnel and their families often face unique challenges when it comes to accessing health care services, including abortion care, due to military deployments, relocations, and other obligations that can make accessing services difficult. timely.

A patient of the Women\’s Reproductive Rights Assistance Project, a military member, said she could not afford the out-of-pocket cost of more than $2,000 for an abortion, and her insurance did not cover the procedure. She can\’t afford a baby either, and she only has $300 to contribute to the procedure.

This situation highlights the importance of providing financial assistance to cover the costs of abortion care, a service that WRRAP, the nation\’s largest independent abortion fund, is increasingly being called upon to provide military members from coast to coast. .

Abortion is not a political issue, it is a human issue. The right to access safe and legal abortion is essential for servicemen and their families to be in control of their bodies and their futures. It\’s time to stop attacking a person\’s reproductive rights and start supporting them.

With the Supreme Court\’s overturn of Roe last year, the barriers to accessing abortion care are only exacerbated for military personnel who are stationed in states with restrictive abortion laws.

Kim, a former US Army officer who served four years, said military health workers have never been able to provide abortion assistance, except for the life of the mother, rape or incest. That means service members have to take time off, look for an off-base provider, and pay out of pocket. Now, in the wake of the Dobbs decision, if they\’re stationed in a state that has restricted access to abortion, they have to take even longer leave, scramble to find a provider, and get approval to charge for travel to a region where abortion is legal to receive treatment. Not to mention the possibility of having to disclose to their chain of command that they need an abortion in order to get their leave request granted.

It is essential to prioritize health care, including the right to access safe and legal abortion, for military personnel who have sacrificed so much for the country. It is unacceptable that women who have served our country courageously cannot access the health care they need. We cannot stand by as women who have staked their lives for our freedom are denied the freedom to make choices about their bodies.

On Memorial Day, as we honor and remember the sacrifices made by military personnel who have served our country, we also reflect on the ways we can support and care for our service members and their families. It\’s time to end the stigma and shame of abortion and start supporting people in making their own decisions about their bodies and their futures.

Sylvia Ghazarian is executive director of the Women\’s Reproductive Rights Assistance Project, a non-profit abortion fund that provides urgently needed financial assistance nationwide to those seeking abortion or emergency contraception. This column was made available through the American Forum in Washington, DC

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