Friday, February 12, 2010

Emergency Contraception on Military Bases...Finally

According to NARAL Pro-Choice America, the Department of Defense, emergency contraception (EC), also known as the morning-after pill, has been added to the list of medications available to service members overseas.  What does that mean?  It means that EC, the safe, legal medication that can help prevent pregnancy if taken up to 5 days after sex, will be available to military women stationed overseas the same way it is available to women stateside.  This is a critical policy shift from the Bush administration, which repeatedly put ideology before science and prevented military women from having guaranteed access to EC.  It is a great relief to have the political intrusion of the previous administration lifted.  And then there are men like Major Gen. Anthony Cuculo III, commander of U.S. forces in Northern Iraq, who last November attempted to restrict the reproductive rights of military women by declaring impregnation a crime subject to a court-martial.  Although the policy fell through because of heavy criticisms, it is a reminder that we need to be vigilant of the double standard and the sexism military women face.  

Emergency contraception to women in uniform has been a long time in coming and it will reduce the number of unintended pregnancies .  Although this is a sure victory for servicewomen, it is important to remember that women in the military are still denied access to safe, legal abortion care.  This is particularly problematic for women who are stationed in countries that do not recognize abortion rights.  Women serving in our country should have the same access to legal reproductive health care as civilian women, which should include making abortion care available on military bases throughout the world.  While the Obama administration should be commended for their efforts to increase access of EC for military women, the fight must continue until military women are given the ability to make private decisions about their lives and bodies without government interference.  

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