Target: President Barack Obama
Goal: To protect the sexual health of U.S. servicewomen by stopping the appointment of anti-choice candidate, Chuck Hagel, for the position of defense secretary.
Recently, Chuck Hagel, a former senator opposed to abortion rights, has become the top choice in President Obama’s consideration for the appointment of the next defense secretary. Hagel has a long history of opposing women’s right to choose and, more specifically, limiting access to abortion for servicewomen stationed abroad. In the past Hagel told the Omaha World Herald that he did not believe in exceptions for abortion in the cases of rape and incest because the numbers of pregnancies that result from these violent acts are not “relevant.” He has also repeatedly voted against allowing female soldiers to pay out of pocket for their abortions while abroad. Beginning in 2013, the Defense Department health insurance plan will cover abortions for servicewomen who become pregnant as a result of rape. If Chuck Hagel assumes the position of defense secretary, it will be his duty to enforce this new policy, which he has clearly opposed in the past.
As women make up 20 percent of the armed forces, ensuring the protection of the sexual health of female soldiers is important for a number of reasons. According to the Guttmacher Institute, there has been a recent increase in the number of sexual assault reports in the military. Reports indicate that 88 percent of the victims are female, and 33 percent of servicewomen have experienced attempted or completed rape. In addition, the Defense Department estimates that 20 percent of sexual assault cases go unreported. Many of the countries in which the U.S. military is stationed prohibit abortion altogether, making the military health facilities the only option for servicewomen to receive an abortion. If abortion services are denied to these women, they could be forced to carry the unwanted pregnancy to term or to return back to the U.S. to obtain an abortion, jeopardizing their military careers and health.
These statistics are unacceptable in their own right, but the chance that servicewomen’s access to abortion could be inhibited is too big a risk to take. With Hagel’s political history, this risk could become a reality and endanger the health of thousands of women. Sign the petition below to tell President Obama to protect the sexual health of female service personnel by reconsidering his appointment of Chuck Hagel to the defense secretary position.
Dear Mr. President,
We ask that you reconsider your choice of former Senator Chuck Hagel for the position of defense secretary in the name of U.S. servicewomen and their reproductive health. Women currently make up 20 percent of the U.S. armed forces and have dedicated their lives to protecting the rights and freedom of American citizens. As a country, we owe it to them to guarantee that they receive protection of their sexual health.
Servicewomen are in a unique position that makes them especially vulnerable to both sexual assault and lack of access to sexual health services, specifically abortion. The Guttmacher Institute reports that 88 percent of sexual assault victims in the military are women, and of this number, 33 percent report experiencing attempted or completed rape. These women deserve much better than this; at the very least, they deserve the absolute guarantee that they will have access to the necessary health services.
Throughout his political career, Chuck Hagel has made it abundantly clear that he does not support a woman’s right to choose, even in cases of incest and rape. He has even gone so far as to attempt to prohibit servicewomen from paying for their abortions out of their own pocket while stationed abroad. To entrust Chuck Hagel with the responsibility of enforcing the new abortion policy of the 2013 military insurance plan is to put the health of U.S. servicewomen at further risk. Please consider appointing an individual who has the health of our servicewomen in his or her best interest.
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Photo credit: Expertinfantry via Flickr