Joanna Sweatt details her experience with reproductive care, from tampons to abortion, as a woman in the military
WASHINGTON — Joanna Sweatt, Common Defense’s National Organizing Director, wrote a piece published in NBC Think last week about her experiences with reproductive health care as a woman in the military. She starkly contrasts her experience giving birth as an 18-year-old with the deep disrespect she felt while giving birth as a married woman in the military. As a woman in the military, every single aspect of reproductive care is frustrating and unnecessarily difficult. From buying your own tampons to the lack of professional medical care for people with uteruses, Sweatt details the deeply sexist military practices that made her life and the lives of her fellow female service members so difficult.
It is a powerful story worth the full read, but here are some of the highlights:
- “The current level of [reproductive] care [in the military] is totally inadequate. When it comes to reproductive health, everything from family planning to getting your period — worsened by the ongoing tampon shortage — can be a struggle for women who serve.”
- “Even though I was married, my choice to remain pregnant after birth control failed was disrespected by my command and peers, who ridiculed me and made me feel inadequate as a Marine. In the naval hospital, my birthing experience was procedural and traumatic. As an active member of the Marine Corps, I was respected less and treated worse than when I was 18. ”
- “These two health care choices ensured that I could be the best mother I could be to my three children, and they guaranteed that I could continue serving my country to the best of my ability…Reproductive health is often compromised by military service. But the military fails to fully account for this in the care it provides women.”
- “Under the military’s health insurance plan, inactive service members, veterans, military spouses and dependents face copays for the contraceptives that are available, despite the military’s covering the cost of Viagra for male service members, veterans and their families…Contraception is also often used by servicewomen to control their periods, because — big surprise — the military does little to support period care; it doesn’t even provide free period products for members stationed overseas.”
- “Women should receive free and unfettered access to hygiene products, as well as a health program that makes all care related to fertility health completely free, including whether or not to have children…Veterans and military members risk their lives for this country. Protecting their right to abortion and providing comprehensive health care are the least we can do in return.”
If you’d like to connect with Joanna directly to hear more about her story and what she, along with the veterans of Common Defense, are doing to advocate for reproductive justice, please reach out to Ben Cook at [email protected].