Senate Approves Abortion Coverage For Military Rape Victims

On Tuesday, the US Senate unanimously voted to extend military medical insurance to cover abortions for victims of rape or incest. Before now, women in the military have had to pay out-of-pocket for abortions, and abortions have not been allowed in military medical facilities. Now, the Senate has passed this amendment to the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

If the House of Representatives decides to include the measure in its version of the NDAA, then women in the military would be provided with covered abortion in cases of rape and incest. The US Department of Labor reports that while one in six civilian women has been sexually assaulted, one in three military women experience sexual assault.

If a victim of such assault is raped and becomes pregnant, it has thus far been up to her to seek medical care should she desire to terminate the pregnancy. While military insurance covers the costs of obstetric and maternity care, and adoption is an option, abortion is not covered by military insurance. In addition, abortions are currently not allowed to be performed at Department of Defense installations.

Army veteran Ayana Harrell was drugged and gang-raped in 2001 by fellow soldiers and Marines and a training base in Alabama. She reported the incident to her drill instructor, but he failed to assist her. She then discovered she was pregnant. She made an appointment at a local clinic to terminate the pregnancy, but backed out when she realized the financial cost of such a decision.

Senator Jeanne Shaheen, who instigated the amendment, believes: “It’s simply unfair that we’ve singled out the women who are putting their lives on the line in the military. We have women starting out making $18,000 a year, and they just are not able to deal with this situation on the private side when it happens to them.”

The Department of Defense reports that there were at least 19,000 intra-military sexual assaults in 2010 alone.

Do you think the military should cover abortions in the case of rape and incest?