Reproductive Writes: A Fighting Chance For Choice

Holly Grigg-Spall
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The emergency contraceptive pill is now mandatorily available at US military bases worldwide. I would think there are a lot of us out there who assumed - as government employees in a situation detrimental to their health in a whole range of ways - that all US soldiers would have access to the best of health care and any prescription drugs they wanted. But - not so - under George Bush the judgement of the Religious Right was able to extend even to those fighting for the American way of life.

From the viewpoint of someone from the UK (me), the blanket acceptance of the 'Support The Troops' rhetoric regardless of political affiliation makes it seem as though the military have full carte blanche. But I guess a woman in the US army, although a soldier, is still a woman.

President Obama's decision to make Plan B's availability compulsory has been celebrated as a victory for women's rights - one of a number instigated by the President in the last year that could be argued as more of a reinstatement of sanity than true progress after two terms of the anti-women Bush administration.

Until very recently, getting pregnant or impregnating a serving soldier was a punishable crime. Without the ready availability of the emergency contraceptive pill, it could be argued that this rule essentially aimed to outlaw penetrative sex between deployed military personnel - as no contraceptive method is entirely infallible. Plus, seeing as a woman could choose not to disclose the identity of the father, the punishment for an 'accident' could well weigh on her alone.

The dire situation women dealing with an unplanned pregnancy in the military prior to Plan B's availability might have found themselves in would be, of course, only made that much more dire if the pregnancy was the result of a rape. Last year reported cases of rape within the military rose by 9% - prompting Congresswoman Jane Harman to comment, 'Military women are more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire in Iraq.' Very few of reported cases actually get to court - as is of course reflected outside of this sphere. Whilst pregnancy was punishable, rape occurs - in the majority of cases - without repercussion. Though the real issue here is that the military needs to crack down on rapists, at least now that they have access to Plan B women who become pregnant through unwanted sex have an option beyond just being unfairly punished.

Policies implemented under the Bush regime did not spring solely from his particular brand of politics - the anti-abortion movement during the Reagan era ramped up this war on contraception. Their force succeeded in producing the cutbacks in public, and private, funding for birth control clinics and family planning services that we saw reproduced under Bush. The movement's myopic view of contraception instigated the shutting down of federal and private research into birth control methods. The US was once a leader in this field of study, but pressure from pro-lifers made corporations and insurance companies cautious about getting involved. It looks like it will take many more "progressive" (read: reasonable) moves by the Obama administration before we get back to square one, but at least the availability of Plan B in the military is a step in the right direction.

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2 Comments Have Been Posted

just sayin

Holly -I look forward to your posts throughout the week. I've just starting reading your blog and I highly recommend it to readers. I'm 25 and just stepping forward from being and thinking like a young adult with no thoughts about reproduction and what my fertility means to me into womanhood. Now that I'm considering starting a family, I'm realizing I know nothing about my own fertility cycle or about what effects my past or current contraceptive methods have had on my body. I pay more attention to the "crisis of infertility" articles I see everywhere and I listen more closely when co-workers complain about pumping breast milk in the office or having to leave their 6-week-old at day care This series of posts is very timely. I would love to have some reading recommendations from you.

mothers in the military

Mother's in Combat Boots

Check out this article from Mary Eberstadt from the Stanford Policy Review on mothers in the military. It's interesting that she discusses military mothers and their children without mentioning fathers until the very end with

"few things in life could be more certain than that in almost any place — let alone in a place surrounded by healthy and fit and attractive young men — many of today’s healthy twenty-something females are tomorrow’s mothers"

and my favorite line

"Sending fathers into military zones has been a tragedy for as long as war has been around. Sending mothers along with them makes life unimaginably worse."

She doesn't discuss birth control availability, but she does mention abortion and how military policies shouldn't encourage women to have them just to continue serving.

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