Being the spouse of an active duty U.S. Marine has its benefits, for sure. Of course, it also has its drawbacks. I have a little of both on my mind at the moment.
One major benefit is that I have very good health coverage, for a decent price. Our premium is $28.00/month. The most I pay for a prescription is $3.00/30 day supply, and I usually don’t have to pay that. Prescriptions filled at a base pharmacy are free. I have access to world class medical professionals–providers who are federal employees (or are military themselves) and are salaried. They don’t prescribe pills just because they had a visit from the drug rep and they aren’t concerned about profits, so their advice isn’t guided by an ulterior motive.
There is a catch, (or two) of course.
Despite access to free, routine reproductive health care–including birth control (an IUD for me), well-woman exams, STD testing/treatment, prenatal care, excellent obstetrics services as well as any number of support programs–information, counseling, classes, etc. on everything from healthy lifestyle choices to infant & toddler care–my health coverage doesn’t include abortion services.
Wellllllllllllll, it does, but only in cases where the life of the mother is threatened. Like everything else about TriCare (the health insurance program that covers military dependents), their website succinctly outlines the limits of abortion coverage:
TRICARE covers abortions only when the life of the mother is at risk. The attending physician must certify that the abortion was performed because the life of the mother would be endangered if the fetus were carried to term.
TRICARE does not cover:
Services and supplies related to a noncovered abortion
Counseling, referral, preparation and follow-up for a noncovered abortion
Abortions for fetal abnormality or for psychological reasons
Selective reduction of multi-fetal gestations
On its face, it makes sense. TriCare is a federal program and, as of the 1976 Hyde Amendment (effective 1977), the federal government is prohibited by law from paying for abortion services.
It still pisses me off. To be clear–I believe that elective abortion services should be covered by all health insurance plans–public, private, state, federal, or otherwise. The question of federal funding for abortion services takes on a few additional dimensions, however, when we are talking about the spouses of active duty military members.
First, abortions can not be performed at military facilities/hospitals. For many wives, the nearest/only facility we have access to is a military one. This means that, even if we can afford to pay for it ourselves (a problem, particularly for the spouses of lower ranking enlisted–many of whom qualify for welfare benefits, even once you account for the additional pay and benefits received by military families for housing, etc.), we may not be able to find a local provider to perform the procedure.
Second, TriCare’s policy is so narrow, it even excludes abortion in cases of rape or incest–provisions that everyone but the most extreme “pro-lifers” agree with–which means that women who depend on TriCare to cover their health care costs are more vulnerable to being forced to carry a pregnancy to term, even after they have been abused and traumatized.
Third, TriCare’s policy doesn’t include a provision for cases where the fetus is not viable outside the womb. This means that a military dependent who discovers that her pregnancy won’t result in a healthy baby, as she might wish, but instead, in the possible delivery of a fetus that, if it survives at all, will be in pain and/or won’t live very long after its birth. I, personally, can’t imagine the terrible pain I would feel if I knew I were carrying a child that would be in pain or would not survive after it left my body.
And, as every military spouse knows, there is a distinct possibility that we will go through these things alone. In all likelihood, our husband will be deployed and we will be on our own.
These things make me angry. I get even more angry when I think about the hypocrisy of all of this. Ask any right wing anti-choice activist (and every single Congressperson) and they will tell you that our military men and women are the defenders of our FREEDOM! They are the ones that keep America safe, and they are the ones that make the Ultimate Sacrifice so that you and I can be FREE! *can I get a Hallelujah!*
No matter what your feelings are about the military and the degree to which they Defend Our Freedom–the fact is, their wives and dependents, like civilian women, are not free. Despite the sacrifices of our families, despite thousands of dead and wounded–just in our two current conflicts–the right, and particularly anti-choice zealots, have been enormously successful at limiting our reproductive choices, all the while raising their collective voices in a cacophony of flag-waiving, support-our-troops-magnet sporting, flag pin-wearing bullshit.
Anti-Choice forces are all about our troops–unless their wives want an abortion. Then, well, your husband must not be fighting for your freedom, honey, he is fighting so you can be forced to give birth, or so that you, at least, have to give up your grocery budget for the foreseeable future so you can pay for your own baby killin’.
There are exceptions, of course–factions of the anti-choice movement that are also anti-war, anti-military, even anti-death penalty. But by and large, the same people that have no problem with overturning Roe, or with making sure that abortions are not funded by federal tax dollars, or with protesting at abortion clinics, or with limiting abortion in any way they can, do, by golly, Support Our Troops.