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US servicewomen's experiences obtaining abortion care

Kate Grindlay, MSPH, Ibis Reproductive Health

Project abstract

Women in the US military face unique challenges related to their sexual and reproductive health, including disproportionately high rates of unintended pregnancy and sexual assault. Compounding this, federal law prohibits the provision of abortion at military facilities except in cases of life endangerment, rape, or incest.

Very limited research has taken place on US servicewomen's experiences seeking abortion. The one study on this topic, in which we qualitatively analyzed routine consultation data from deployed women who were seeking abortion information from an online resource, found significant barriers to abortion access overseas, including legal and logistical impediments to services in the country where they were based, and difficulties accessing abortion elsewhere due to fear of negative impact on their careers, confidentiality concerns, and the narrow time frame for early abortion.

This study seeks to further fill this knowledge gap to better understand servicewomen's experiences accessing abortion in the face of highly restrictive policies and the resulting lack of services through military channels. To do this, we plan to conduct in-depth interviews with 30 US servicewomen seeking abortion at US clinics located near military bases.

This study will generate new knowledge on the impact of abortion restrictions on this under-studied population, the factors that contribute to the high rate of unintended pregnancy in the military, and the pathways to accessing post-abortion contraceptive care for servicewomen. These data have implications for improving care for servicewomen among civilian and military providers, and informing military and Congressional policymakers about the impact of the restrictive policies.

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