For a PDF version of this factsheet with footnotes, please see below.
Members of the military and their dependents are currently prohibited from receiving abortion services at military hospitals except in cases where a woman’s life is endangered or the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) has offered an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would repeal this unfair and unsafe law. The amendment would ensure that our servicemembers have access to abortion care no matter where they are stationed.
The Current Ban Creates Insurmountable Barriers for Servicewomen Seeking Access to Safe Reproductive Healthcare
Unable to turn to their base medical facility for abortion care, servicewomen and dependents of service members can be forced into dangerous and desperate situations. For a woman serving in locations where abortion is unavailable, illegal, or unsafe, she may be left with no options. Even if a servicewoman is able to find a medical provider that can perform the procedure, she may encounter significant hurdles, including being forced to:
- Travel hundreds or even thousands of miles to access a clinic;
- Seek medical care from unfamiliar providers and staff, with whom she might not share the same language and who might not have access to her relevant medical records;
- Compromise her privacy, if she must inform her commander of the abortion in explaining her leave request to travel for the procedure.
Moreover, in the instances where there will be significant travel and other costs, a servicewoman may delay the procedure as she saves money to cover the costs. Although abortion is a very safe procedure, such delays can increase the health risks of the procedure.
The Current Ban Denies Our Servicewomen Their Constitutional Rights
Women who volunteer to serve in our military and have committed their lives to the defense of our country should not be denied access to a constitutional right. For our servicewomen stationed where there are simply no options for an abortion, the denial of access is the denial of the right.
The Department of Defense has Supported a Repeal of the Current Ban
The Department of Defense supported lifting this harmful restriction in 2011, stating that it supports “a policy that would not prohibit Service members and military dependents, including nearly 50,000 Servicewomen stationed overseas, from obtaining abortion services at Military Treatment Facilities using private funds.”