When Rachel Van Landingham was a lieutenant in the air force, she was ordered to accompany a female officer to a poor-quality medical facility in Seoul to perform a “back-street abortion.” Abortions were illegal in South Korea at the time, and her commander did not give her two weeks off to have a legal abortion in the United States.

If the Supreme Court overturns Rowe v. Wade – as suggested by a draft decision revealed by Politico this was confirmed Monday by Chief Justice John Roberts on Tuesday – about two dozen states are expected to pass laws quickly that put safe, legal abortions out of the reach of many more U.S. troops.

“It was just shocking to me that we did this with the military. Nobody cared, “It was disgusting,” said Van Landingham, a former lawyer for an Air Force judge who is now a professor at Southwestern Law School. “It’s not just South Korea that’s happening right now. That’s going to happen in Texas. ”

Although judges could change their minds and draft before the final decision is made next month, defenders worry that making abortion illegal so widely and quickly could reduce military readiness; they call on Congress and the Pentagon to ensure that troops’ reproductive rights are protected.

Women in the military seeking abortion now face more restrictions than their civilian counterparts. Abortions cannot be performed in military medical facilities and the costs of procedures in private facilities are not covered by Tricare’s health insurance due to Hyde’s fix from 1976, which bans the use of federal dollars for abortion unless the mother’s life is in danger, he said Sean Timmonsmanaging partner of the Tully Rinckey law firm in Houston.

Roe’s repeal of Wade is likely to make it harder for women in the military to find safe and legal access to the procedure, Timmons said. For example, an employee in Texas still has legal access to abortion up to six weeks after her pregnancy, even if the new restrictions have forced many clinics to close. If the Supreme Court’s final ruling becomes final, troops will need to be approved for leave, travel to another state and potentially bear other costs, such as a hotel stay. The increased burden could force women to “take matters into their own hands” and either seek dangerous abortions or try to terminate pregnancies on their own, Timmons said.

If each state has the freedom to ban or allow abortions, women’s reproductive rights in the military will depend on where the Department of Defense deploys them, a decision in which they have little say, Van Landingham said. If a woman from California, where abortion is expected to remain legal, joins the military and is based in Georgia, her access to reproductive health care will be limited by her decision to join the military.

“They did not choose to live in this country. “They have chosen to sacrifice voluntarily for their country, but they have not voluntarily sacrificed their reproductive rights,” Van Landingham said. “This is something that men in the military should not sacrifice, why women?”

More than half of the states, including many in the South, are ready to ban abortions if the Supreme Court overturns Rowe v. Wade, while others already have book laws that will take effect immediately based on the court’s ruling. These states, including Texas, Georgia and Florida, are also home to hundreds of thousands of troops at some of the country’s largest military facilities.

Defenders said there were steps Congress could take to protect the reproductive rights of servicemen, but there were few reasons for optimism given the well-known positions of lawmakers, who have so far made action against abortion impossible. Just as servicemen pay government revenue taxes or register their car in their state of lawful residence rather than in the state in which they are located, Van Landingham said Congress could pass a law that says women’s military access to abortion cannot be worse than that. who would be in her home state.

Others called on the Pentagon to take action to protect its military women, as well as the wives and children of men who serve. Erin Kirk-Cuomowho served in the Marines before being a co-founder Not in my Marinessaid the Department of Defense should consider a round of restructuring and closure of the base, or BRAC, to close military facilities in states that do not protect the rights of troops, a politically unpopular move on Capitol Hill that is sure to attract lawmakers who want to keep bases in their areas open.

Kirk-Cuomo also encouraged women and their allies to protest the court’s decision not to join the military, especially as women’s access to abortions will be restricted at a time when military sexual violence is on the rise. .

“Along with sexual violence comes more unwanted pregnancies,” she said. “When you have the highest levels of sexual assault that our country has seen in the army, it will affect the readiness of the forces.

“I would not like to enlist in an army that does not protect me in the service from attack and will also not protect me after the fact,” she continued. “If a woman is considering enrolling, I would strongly encourage her to reconsider this choice.

Van Landingham said it was too early to know how the recruitment would be affected if the Supreme Court’s decision was final, but how the military would try to support the military would also matter. The Air Force, for example, has offered support members of the service in countries that have recently passed laws restricting LGBTQ rights, including medical care, legal aid or the relocation of families, if necessary.

This is not a practical solution for women in states that ban abortion, but the military could take steps to help women’s troops seek abortion.

“You can’t have a men’s base in Texas… but they can give some indication that the military is interested and understands that women can face this dilemma,” VanLingham said. “They can say that we will try to help you and give you permission when you ask for it.


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