Military to Lift Combat Restrictions on Women, Yet Fight for the Pill Continues
After a long push for the right to fight alongside men in combat, women will join their ranks next year, but there are concerns that spotty health care could leave them more vulnerable to pregnancies.
Kaiser Health News reports that "rates of unintended pregnancy among women in the military are 50 percent higher than those of women in the general population," and though most contraception is covered by their health plans, getting consistent refills for the pill overseas has proven a challenge in the past.
“It is unfortunate that here we have the military, that has one of the best health care systems in the country, and where we still have a gap is in contraception,” Nancy Duff Campbell, copresident of equal rights advocacy group National Women’s Law Center, told Kaiser.
What's more, the military has strict rules around abortion: The procedure can only be performed for pregnancies that are a result of incest or rape, or if the woman’s life is in danger.
The Department of Defense reported last month that the shift could open more than 245,000 jobs to women. The vast majority—97 percent—of women who are on active duty are of childbearing age.
The issue is before the House of Representatives and the Senate, in the form of the Pentagon's spending bill, which is being hashed out in committee and is expected to come up for vote in October. Notably, the House version makes FDA-approved contraceptives available and calls to ensure women service members have access to them for the duration of their deployment.