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Military Health System

Reproductive Health: Considerations for Adult Victims of Sexual Assault

Considerations for Adult Victims of Sexual Assault

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Reproductive Health Q&A
Q1:

If a Service member were sexually assaulted, what is the process by which they could access abortion services?

A:

Federal law restricts the Department from performing abortions or paying to have them performed unless the life of the mother would be endangered if the fetus were carried to term, or unless the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. In the case of a Service member who seeks an abortion related to a sexual assault, the Service member would seek these services through their medical provider and does not need to obtain permission or other forms of documentation from their Command. The treating provider must document their good faith belief that the pregnancy is a result of rape, and would then either perform the procedure at the MTF or refer to another provider within the same MTF to provide the abortion. If the abortion cannot be performed at the MTF, the provider would refer the patient to the private sector or transfer the patient to another MTF with the capability to perform the abortion. If the Service member reported a sexual assault to a Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC), a Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Victim Advocate (SAPR VA), or the Family Advocacy Program (FAP), the Service member would be asked if they want referrals for services, to include for medical and mental health services. The member could receive a referral from the SARC, SAPR VA, or FAP to an appropriate health care provider wherein their request for an abortion could be made. SARCs, SAPR VAs, and FAP would not discuss the details of health care with victims, since they are not qualified or authorized to discuss health-related matters or to provide personal opinions on health care issues.

Q2:

If a Service member is a victim of sexual assault or incest and seeking an abortion, with whom would they need to disclose their rape or sexual assault?

A:

The patient need only share this information with their MTF health care provider for a referral to a DOD provider who can perform the abortion. Providers are required, per DOD policy, to notify a Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC) or Family Advocacy Program (FAP) that they are treating a patient who reports to have been sexually assaulted so that the SARC or FAP can inform the victim of services and reporting options. There is no requirement that the health care provider inform the SARC or FAP that the patient requested an abortion. A SARC or FAP staff member may also assist in connecting Service members with a provider for medical care, including abortion. However, that Service member will need to share with the medical provider that they were raped in order to receive a covered abortion.

Q3:

Does the DOD provide abortion services for Service members or beneficiaries who have been sexually assaulted even if they have not reported the assault, there is no ongoing investigation, or if an investigation has not been completed?

A:

There is no requirement for a patient to formally report or participate in a formal investigation of a sexual assault for the patient to access abortion services at an MTF. The treating provider is required to notify the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator or Family Advocacy Program that they are treating a patient who indicates they are a victim of sexual assault so that information on available resources and reporting options can be provided; however, a beneficiary is not required to utilize any of the services or make a formal report to be eligible for the abortion. In addition, the provider does not provide the name of the patient to the SARC when the patient declines to make a report of sexual assault or speak with the SARC. The health care provider will document that they, in good faith, believe the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest, based on the patient’s report.

Q4:

Do state laws that require a victim of sexual assault or incest to have reported the alleged offense to law enforcement apply to Service members, dependents, or other beneficiaries who are seeking abortion services from an MTF?

A:

Provision of covered abortions (which includes those as a result of rape or incest) continues to be legal and authorized under federal law and it remains DOD policy to provide such services, consistent with federal law, even in states that require a law enforcement investigation to be eligible for abortion service. No such investigation is required for DOD providers at an MTF to perform an abortion. DOD providers at an MTF may continue to provide such services as part of their Federal duties if medically appropriate, even if those services are restricted or prohibited by state law.

Last Updated: August 16, 2022
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