Women in the US Armed Forces who face Reproductive Malpractice have no legal recourse

SUMMARY: Dov Fox, Associate Professor of Law at the University of San Diego and Alex Stein, Law Professor from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law of Yeshiva University, write about the legal loophole that prevents military personnel suing military hospitals and staff for negligent prenatal care. This is a serious limitation for these female service-members ‘to exercise their reproductive rights.’ A recent case involved an active-duty Air Force service-member, Captain Heather Ortiz, who was admitted to a military hospital to deliver her baby (I.O.) by C-section. The hospital staff incorrectly administered drugs that reduced Ortiz’s blood pressure causing oxygen deprivation in utero and ultimately severe brain damage to the baby. The Court rejected the lawsuit but commented on the unfairness of the ‘Supreme Court Doctrine,’ which exempts the US government from liability for personal injuries related to military service, or in legal jargon, injuries ‘incident to service.’ The doctrine emerged in the 1950s case Feres v US, where the courts reasoned that the Veterans Benefit Act sufficiently governs compensation for personal injuries for service-members. However, this precedent does not give baby I.O. standing as she is a civilian child not a veteran. Even more strangely, had Heather Ortiz been a civilian wife to a service-member, this doctrine would not have applied. Even if the immunity stays in place, Fox and Stein suggest a congressional fund to compensate children whose disabilities are caused by negligence of military facilities.

SOURCE: Dov Fox and Alex Stein, July 2 2015, ‘Reproductive Malpractice and the U.S. Military,’ Huffington Post, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dov-fox/reproductive-malpractice-and-the-us-military_b_7706980.html

US Laws prevent family members suing the Military

SUMMARY: Jonathan Ritchie, husband of an active service member, has unsuccessfully sued the military for medical negligence. Pregnant January Ritchie was serving in Hawaii during 2006 when medical practitioners advised her to limit physical activity in order to reduce the risk of miscarriage. Ritchie’s chain of command however directed her to perform her regular duties, which included standing for long hours and physical training. Ritchie went into premature labor and lost her baby soon after his birth. The federal court upheld the Feres doctrine, which prevents active duty troops from claiming damages for any action related to their military service, even though January’s husband Jonathan brought the claim. This narrative has become all too familiar. A pentagon review of the military health system has shown that the average rate of injuries to babies during delivery in military hospitals between 2010 and 2013 are twice the national average. This is a worrying trend; especially since a 1950s precedent is ‘just another way for the government to not be held accountable for the actions of the people who have been hired by the federal government,’ according to National Commander for Women’s Veteran’s of America Mary Ross.

SOURCE: Patricia Kime, July 5 2015, ‘Law prevents some family members from suing the military,’ Military Times, http://www.militarytimes.com/story/military/benefits/health-care/2015/07/05/feres-doctrine-military-service-women-children/29570329/

Key Facts about Military Suicide

SUMMARY: A study published in JAMA Psychiatry found that Army soldiers between 2004 and 2009, especially new enlistees, women and troops diagnosed with mental health disorders are at a higher risk for self-harm. A total of 9,500 soldiers attempted suicide according the Defense Department Suicide Event Reports, with 676 soldiers dying by suicide. Dr Robert Ursano, lead author and chairman of the psychiatry department at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Science, has spoken about the importance of understanding suicide attempts during a period of high intensity operations, the study will hopefully be useful for future operations and peacetime service.

The other findings were:

  • 99% of suicide attempts between 2004 and 2009 were made by enlisted personnel, who make up 84% of the forces
  • Enlisted soldiers and officers were more at risk for attempting suicide if they entered service at age 25 or older.
  • Risk was particularly elevated during the first tour of duty, notably in the first few months of service.
  • Personnel who received a mental health diagnosis were at risk for attempting suicide within a month of getting the news.
  • Non-Hispanic Caucasians were at higher risk than minorities.

SOURCE: Patricia Klime, July 8 2015, ‘Study: Junior Troops, women more likely to try suicide,’ Military Times, http://www.militarytimes.com/story/military/benefits/health-care/2015/07/08/jamapsychiatry-army-starrs-study-suicide-attempts/29857623/

British Army’s shocking sexual assault report

SUMMARY: A new study of 7000 female British Army soldiers reveals that almost 40% of servicewomen were victims of sexual harassment in 2014, with less than 3% formally reporting the incident. One third of the women claimed that they had received inappropriate efforts to talk about sexual matters, with 12% claiming they received unwelcome advances to touch them. More than two thirds of these women claimed the incident occurred at their base or within their training unit. With only 15, 780 women in the British Armed Forces, this report reveals that sexual misconduct in the military is not limited to a few countries, but is pervasive in military culture around the world.

SOURCE: Rose Troup Buchanan, July 14 2015, ‘4 in 10 women in the military victims of sexual harassment, new survey finds,’ The Independent, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/almost-40-per-cent-of-female-servicewomen-victims-of-sexual-harassment-new-survey-finds-10386742.html

Did the Marine Corps shoot itself in the foot by dismissing female commander?

SUMMARY: Lynn Lowder, is a Silver Star recipient and Marine Corps Reconnaissance veteran, who writes about the recent dismissal of Lieutenant Colonel Kate Germano, Commanding Officer of the Marine Corps’ all-female training battalion. The Corps apparently has struggled “against its own culture” due to “systematic gender bias – even in the higher echelons of command.” Germano has 19 years of combat tours, recruiting tours, an assignment as the Secretary of the Navy’s aide de camp and a successful run as commander of the all-female training battalion, under her belt. Specifically while commander of the training battalion, Germano increased female first-time rifle qualification scores from 68% to 91%. The dismissal is according to Lowder, “vilification,” and reflects the Corps’ poor attitude towards successful integration of women.

SOURCE: Lynn Lowder, July 20 2015, ‘Once more the Marine Corps screws up when dealing with female Marines,’ Foreign Policy,https://foreignpolicy.com/2015/07/20/once-more-the-marine-corps-screws-up-when-dealing-with-female-marines/

No ongoing monitoring of women’s combat integration

SUMMARY: The July Government Accountability Office report reveals that DoD does not have an integration strategy after January 2016, when combat positions will be opened to women. There is some investigation into integration challenges, such as unit cohesion, women’s health and facilities. The report goes on to claim, “without ongoing monitoring of integration progress, it will be difficult for DoD to help the services overcome potential obstacles.’

SOURCE: Ryan McDermott, July 21 2015, ‘DoD doesn’t have plans to monitor women in combat positions past 2016,’ Fierce Government, http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/dod-doesnt-have-plans-monitor-women-combat-positions-past-2016/2015-07-21

Unsung Heroes: Female Medic in Combat

SUMMARY: Army Pfc (Private First Class) Monica Brown was the first woman to be awarded the Silver Star, a prestigious award for valor during combat, in 2008 for her “gallantry” during the war in Afghanistan. Brown provided medical treatment to two critically injured soldiers when a vehicle in her convoy was hit with an IED in 2007. However, two days later Brown was removed from her posting after her presence as a “female in a combat arms unit” gained attention. Brown stated in an interview with the Washington post, “I didn’t want to leave.” This is just one narrative of several women who have served in combat support positions, but have engaged with combat. Their stories will hopefully mobilise support to alter the myths and perceptions around ‘women in combat.’

SOURCE: Michael Smith, July 23 2015, ‘Unsung Heroes: The female soldier who provided crucial medical treatment under mortar fire,’ TaskandPurpose, http://taskandpurpose.com/unsung-heroes-the-female-soldier-who-provided-crucial-medical-treatment-under-mortar-fire/