Health Study Floats Abortion As Answer To Military Pregnancy Woes

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Grace Carr Reporter
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The military should consider changing its policies to cover abortions for servicewomen and should provide additional education and emotional resources to military women, claims a study released Wednesday.

The study, published in the journal of Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, sought to examine the effect of the military’s abortion policies on its female soldiers given the fact that U.S. servicewomen have a higher rate of unintended pregnancy than civilian women. Little has been studied about active-duty servicewomen who’ve had abortions while in the military, the authors of the study also noted.

“We know that in the general U.S. population 42 percent of unintended pregnancies end in abortion, but what we didn’t know was what women’s experiences are when they have an unintended pregnancy in the military,” said the study’s co-author, Kate Grindlay, according to Stars and Stripes. A previous study based on statistics from 2011 found the unintended pregnancy rate for active-duty women was 72 per 1,000 women ages 18 to 44 years as compared to a civilian rate of 45 per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44 years.

“Many of the women we spoke with had expected that the military would provide abortion care or at least counseling and had been surprised — and in some cases angered — when they were turned away,” Grindlay told Stars and Stripes.

The researchers from Ibis Reproductive Health in Cambridge, Mass., interviewed 21 servicewomen who had abortions while serving in the past two years. The women described their knowledge and opinions of the military’s abortion policy as well as their experiences accessing abortion care. Researched conducted the interviews between January 2015 and July 2016.

The servicewomen expressed worry about stigma and negative effects on their career, according to the researchers. The women also indicated they had difficulty balancing the desire for privacy with a military institution that exercises more control over individuals than a civilian workplace otherwise might.

The women displayed negative emotional consequences because most were unaware of the military’s abortion policy, and thought the military should provide and cover abortions after learning that it doesn’t do so, the study notes. Some women noted they had to tell a supervisor about the abortion.

The military should not only look into altering its policy to potentially cover and provide abortions for servicewomen, but should educate the women about its abortion policies, provide contraceptive counseling, and improving confidentiality in military health services.

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