Military Pawns in the Abortion Fight

Rarely would we couple “outrageous” with “The Baltimore Sun,” but did you catch the Jan. 22 commentary, “Doing a Disservice to Women Who Serve”? The authors blow past bending facts right to unsupported fabrications in this self-serving activist manifesto.

Ironically, they do more of a disservice to military females who again are caught in the middle of something that’s not their fight.

The opinion piece is about the reproductive rights of military women. Authors Lawrence J. Korb, a former assistant secretary of defense under President Ronald Reagan and current senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and Jessica Arons, director of the center’s Women’s Health and Rights Program, state a service members’ rights differ greatly from those of a civilian U.S. woman.

Actually, the two groups have the same rights. Though we are strong supporters of abortion-on-demand and believe its federal funding should be reinstated, lying to readers (as seems the case in the article) is not an approach we’d recommend to reach the average, non-activist voter.

Federal funding of abortion was nixed across the board in the 1970s, except in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother. Overseas military facility programs may have been the last to get the axe. Civilian women cannot get an abortion funded through federal dollars, though their health plans may cover the procedure. Service women typically do not have health insurance outside their military care, and probably would have to fund the procedure out-of-pocket, something Kolb and Arons rail against. We don’t like it that the procedure cannot be done in a military facility, civilian or military, the rights are the same.

The commentary criticized the now-defunct policy of Army Maj. Gen Anthony Cuculo III that threatened action against females under his command who became pregnant in theater. His concern was the negative impact the pregnancy would have on readiness. Korb and Arons deemed Cuculo’s policy as an affront to women’s reproductive rights, even though Cuculo was holding both the female and male parties accountable for the resulting medical condition The authors claim Cuculo’s policy was counterproductive to military effectiveness, though they failed to explain their reasoning.

Our one area of agreement is the remaining challenges of sexual assault and harassment. These are serious issues commanders still fail to give the credence they require, but tying them to military women’s reproductive rights is misleading.

Could access to contraception and the “morning after” pill improve? We agree with the authors, but women’s reproductive rights are the same in the service or across the great divide, though it may not become apparent until you’ve lived it both ways.

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