Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Congress ignores epidemic of military rape

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Last month, the United States House of Representatives betrayed the 400,000 women who serve in our military.

The Republican leadership sank an amendment that would have provided health insurance to cover abortions for women in the military who are raped.

The sexual assault of our female soldiers by male soldiers is an epidemic. Her risk of being sexually assaulted doubles when a woman joins the military.

More than one-third of military rape victims suffer from multiple rapes and 14 per cent are victims of gang rape, according to the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.

I doubt military recruiters disclose this situation to women -- or to their families. It's not exactly a selling point.

The need for abortion coverage for women in the military who are raped could not be greater. Nor could the hypocrisy.

Other federal bans on abortion coverage -- such as for recipients of Medicaid or Medicare -- provide exceptions for cases of rape and incest. But for some inexplicable reason, there are no such exceptions for women in uniform.

Six members of the House introduced an amendment to grant these exceptions. The House refused to even consider listening to the arguments in favor of the Davis Amendment.

Let us be clear: No woman wants to undergo an abortion. It's not done for kicks under any circumstance. It's a private decision for any woman -- even more so when a pregnancy is a result of rape, gang rape or incest.

Servicewomen deserve better treatment from the House.

Violence against women should not be tolerated anywhere, least of all when they are serving their country.

My dad served in the Navy, and years ago when I was a junior in high school, I received literature from West Point and Annapolis.

My dad was ecstatic and regrets to this day that I did not pursue their offers. I wonder if he'd feel the same way if he knew the rape statistics of women serving in the military -- and that the House has denied women in the military coverage for abortions if they are raped.

I don't have the heart to tell him.

Angela Trudell Vasquez is a Latina activist in Milwaukee.

-- McClatchy-Tribune

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 13, 2011 A13

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