They put their lives on the line for us daily. They make sacrifices that I myself could not be able to fathom. Yet women in the military are denied the same rights to basic health care that other citizens have.
Under current law, if a woman solider is raped and becomes pregnant, she cannot use her military health plan to pay for an abortion. She would be forced to seek health care outside of the military base, which often is very dangerous. But Senator Jeanne Shaheen is working to reverse this glaring human rights violation.
The New Hampshire Senator is the creator of Amendment 1120 (also known as the Shaheen Amendment), which would protect enlisted women so that they can have the same health care as the very citizens they protect. A case where an enlisted woman was raped by a fellow soldier reveals how unjust our current laws are. Jessica Kenyon* was raped and denied access to health care on the military base in Korea where she was stationed. There were no other safe health care alternatives where she was, and because of these circumstances that were beyond her control, she was given no other choice but to leave and give up her military career. She later miscarried.
Sadness does not even begin to describe the feeling I had when I heard this story. Women who put their lives on the line should have access to basic health care—especially if they are survivors of rape. Republican Senators like John McCain, Scott Brown, and Susan Collins have shown that this is not a partisan issue—this is a gross violation of human rights—and they have supported the Shaheen Amendment. However, despite bi-partisan support for the Shaheen Amendment in the Senate, it is not likely to pass in the House because of anti-choice Representatives.
The Pentagon’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office estimates that only 13.5% of all rapes in the military are actually reported and in 2011 alone, there were 471 reported rapes. The Center for American Progress estimates there are several hundred pregnancies that result from rape in the military every year, many unreported. This means there are likely several hundred cases like Jessica Kenyon* every year. Several hundred women who risk their lives to protect our rights at home, who are attacked, who become pregnant and have little to no options.
These women protect us, and now we must protect them. I once wrote about the global apathy towards rape and why it is everyone’s—not just women’s—responsibility to challenge women’s human rights violations.
So fight back right now. Contact your local Representative and demand they finally protect military women and support the Shaheen Amendment. These are fundamental human rights that are being violated within our own military—and there is no room for apathy anymore.