Abortion services for women in the US military

U.S service women are often deployed in countries where abortion is illegal and U.S federal policy prohibits abortion services at medical treatment facilities. A new research paper described the provision of telemedical abortion services by Women on Web to women in the U.S military located overseas.

The study published in Women's Health Issues, reviews de-identified data from email inquiries and online consultation forms from  323 U.S. service women or military spouses seeking medication abortion from Women on Web between January 2010 and December 2017.  

Most of the women were located in a countries where abortion is legally very restricted such as for example Afghanistan, Honduras, Iraq, South Korea, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates. One woman was at sea.

Many of the women describe fear of military reprimand, and potential career impacts. 

One woman feared that she would be “punished if I am found to be pregnant in a warzone. I am not scheduled to return home for another 4 months and cannot wait that long for an abortion.”     

Another woman wrote, “I am pregnant and need an abortion but am facing incredible challenges. I cannot leave base (we're 5 miles from Iraqi border) to get the procedure and cannot leave base for any other reason—no leave, no emergencies.”

One woman considered self-harm in the absence of other options, stating, “I was violated and I'm in the Army but because I did not tell at the time my story will not look right and I could face a lot of trouble. I am deployed to Afghanistan and I need an abortion but we are not able to get them here. I am so desperate I thought of hitting my stomach over and over till I miscarried.”

Twelve servicewomen who contacted Women on Web to obtain an abortion reported that their pregnancy occurred as a result of rape.