October 2019

Abortion need among US servicewomen: Evidence from an internet service

Fix L, Seymour J, Grossman D, Johnson D, Aiken A, Gomperts R, Grindlay K. Abortion need among US servicewomen: Evidence from an internet service. Women's Health Issues. doi: 10.1016/j.whi.2019.10.006. 

Inroduction: US servicewomen have high rates of unintended pregnancy, but federal policy prohibits abortion provision at military treatment facilities and military insurance coverage of abortion, except in cases of rape, incest, or a life-endangering pregnancy. Such restrictions pose challenges to abortion access for servicemembers, particularly during deployment. We aimed to explore the experiences of U.S. servicewomen when accessing abortion during overseas tours and deployment.

Method: We reviewed de-identified data from email inquiries and online consultation forms from U.S. servicewomen or military spouses seeking medication abortion from the telemedicine service Women on Web between January 2010 and December 2017. We used descriptive statistics and inductively coded textual responses to describe client characteristics, circumstances of pregnancy, reasons for abortion, and barriers to abortion care.

Results: Our sample included data for 323 individuals. Reasons for abortion related to military service included disruption of deployment, fear of military reprimand, and potential career impacts. Additionally, servicemembers faced barriers to abortion access related to overseas military deployment or tour, including a lack of legal abortion in-country, limited financial resources, language barriers, travel restrictions, and a lack of confidentiality.

Conclusions: US military servicewomen stationed in countries where safe, legal, abortion is restricted or unavailable face deployment-related barriers to abortion care, which compound those barriers they may face regardless of deployment status. Removal of federal bans on the provision and coverage of abortion care and improved education about existing regulations could improve access to timely abortion care and in some cases allow servicewomen who wish to obtain abortion care to remain deployed.

Tagged with Abortion, United States