On the Verge: DADT and Military Abortion Ban

Amie Newman

Will the Senate vote tonight on a repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell? Is the military abortion ban next? It seems we're on the verge of a potentially historic breakthrough when it comes to government sanctioned discrimination.

Update 12/8/10, 6:35pm EST: It looks ike the Senate won’t vote on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell tonight. As per Senator Susan Collins’ (R-ME) request for an extended period of debate on the Defense Authorization Bill (the bill which is the vehicle for DADT), and to sideline a filibuster, Reid is delaying a vote.

It looks like the Senate could take a procedural vote tonight, led by Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.), on the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell included in the Defense Authorization Bill – a bill that also includes a repeal of the abortion ban for women who serve in the United States military. Some gay rights activists, however, are saying Senator Reid should hold the vote, since Republicans have threatened a filibuster on the Defense Bill vote if it’s not held off until voting on “tax cuts and government spending legislation.”

At this point, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell – the policy which prevents gay and lesbian service members from openly revealing their sexuality – has been deemed a dinosaur. A federal judge has ruled it unconstitutional, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has come out in support of the repeal, the House has already voted to end it, and the Pentagon released a report of a year-long study in which the majority of military members and their spouses say they can actually handle a repeal, would not leave their jobs and that the unit cohesion amongst the troops would not be negatively affected.

As for the military abortion ban, the federal government is currently denying our female service members access to reproductive health care or forcing soldiers or the family members of soldiers to turn to unsafe and unhealthy scenarios in order to access some type of care. When a woman is stationed overseas, in a country where abortion access is severely limited or illegal entirely, not only does it potentially place a woman in danger by forcing her to get substandard care, but she also may be in a position where she needs to find funds to pay for the abortion, to fly home or travel a great distance to the closest facility which will perform an abortion. According to the ACLU, the ban discriminates against women who have chosen to serve their country plain and simple. Notes the ACLU:

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A recent article, “Military Abortion Ban: Female Soldiers Not Protected by Constitution They Defend,” recounts the story of a Marine who was stationed in Fallujah when she realized she was pregnant as a result of rape. Faced with being ostracized by her male colleagues if she reported the rape, “Amy” did not do so. Without any options, this Marine attempted to self-abort using the cleaning rod of her rifle.

The ACLU also notes that given the high incidences of rape and sexual assault, placing military women in the position of facing further barriers to care is cruel.

Both of these policies are simply government sanctioned discrimination – against LGBT Americans and women. The ACLU and others are encouraging people to call and email your Senator(s).

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