Women In The Military Finally Get Access To Plan B

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Women in the military now have the same option as their civilian sisters — ready access to Plan B, the birth control method that can be used after unprotected intercourse.

Women’s health advocates had long been pushing the Obama administration to allow the sale of the morning-after pill at military facilities. The same panel made a similar recommendation in 2002, but the policy was never implemented.

“It’s a tragedy that women in uniform have been denied such basic health care,” said Nancy Keenan of NARAL Pro-Choice America, which estimated that the decision would affect more than 350,000 women in the military. “We applaud the medical experts for standing up for military women.”

The morning-after pills consist of higher doses of a hormone found in many standard birth-control pills. Taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, it has been shown to be highly effective at preventing pregnancy.

Any woman who is raped needs access to Plan B. Reported The New York Times:

Jessica Kenyon was raped twice during her one year career in the US Army, once in basic training and once in Korea. She is now a counselor (http://www.militarysexualtrauma.org) for other veterans who have been raped—women and men. Jessica’s rapists were never prosecuted.

Suzanne Swift was raped repeatedly by her squad leader while they were in Iraq. She was court-martialed for refusing to go back to Iraq with the unit in which the rapist still served. The rapist was never prosecuted, returned to Iraq as a private security contractor and later fired from a position with a law enforcement agency in the Seattle area. Suzanne is now out of the military and in college.

Stephanie (last name not disclosed), was raped at Fort Lewis, Washington. Like the majority of women who have been raped in the military, she never reported it as she thought no one would believe her as the rapist was a senior officer. Stephanie and her husband both served in Iraq. Her husband committed suicide after his return from Iraq. Stephanie speaks frequently on the issue of military suicides. [more]

a. Please click here to download the United States General Accountability Office on the Military’s handling of sexual assaults.
b. Please download the Pentagon’s 2006 report on gender relations that says that more than three quarters of sexual assault victims in the military do not report the abuse.

When rape and sexual assault is sufficiently widespread within the military that the Department of Defense has created special programs to deal with it, this decision is overdue.

The issue of access to Plan B isn’t new, as this Stars and Stripes piece makes clear.

It’s appalling enough that women serving their country face assault within their own ranks, but without a ready solution to a possible unwanted pregnancy, like Plan B, they have been left doubly vulnerable.