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Key To Female Infantry Integration Still Beyond Military Planners: Birth Control

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Jonah Bennett Contributor

The military is set to roll back restrictions on women serving in combat roles early next year, but that doesn’t mean integration problems have suddenly disappeared.

Female servicemembers are bringing one particular issue to the forefront, namely the fact that they often can’t access the exact type of birth control they want at every military installation, which presents a major obstacle to operational capability because of unwanted pregnancies, NPR reports.

Accidental pregnancy is 50 percent higher in the military than among female civilians, based on results from a Department of Defense survey conducted in 2008. Almost 11 percent of 7,000 active-duty female servicemembers in the survey experienced an unplanned pregnancy. This rate has increased since 2005.

Costs associated with pregnancy are high. If a female servicemember becomes pregnant while at home, she cannot deploy, and additionally, if she becomes pregnant out in the field, the military has to evacuate her at a cost of $10,000 dollars, a figure which only counts raw costs of transportation.

According to a report published in the journal Military Medicine examining disease nonbattle injuries, out of 47 female soldiers receiving medical evacuations during Operation Iraqi Freedom, 74 percent were due to pregnancy-related issues.

Researchers Dr. Daniel Grossman and Kate Grindlay published a survey in 2012 in which 60 percent of female servicemembers stated that contraception was easy or somewhat easy to access. The reason more women don’t make use of available contraception approved by the Food and Drug Administration is that they didn’t plan to have sex while deployed.

Clearly, given the rate of unplanned pregnancies, they are often mistaken.

Women are permitted a 180-day supply of contraceptives when they leave for deployment, but sometimes they want a particular type of contraceptive method which is not carried by all military installations.

Nancy Duff Campbell, co-president of the National Women’s Law Center, thinks that the contraceptive gap needs to be filled as soon as possible.

“It is unfortunate that here we have the military — [with] one of the best health care systems in the country — and, where we still have a gap is in contraception,” Campbell told NPR.

A total of 245,000 jobs in the military will open up to women as soon as the restrictions are eliminated next year.

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