Contraception access is important to all women. And it’s vital to military readiness.

As Women’s History Month heralds our strides in women’s rights, it’s juxtaposed with the present-day challenges that cast a shadow over these achievements. 

The onslaught of restrictive measures by far-right courts — exemplified by the Alabama Supreme Court’s IVF ruling and looming legislation aimed at banning essential contraceptives like IUDs and Plan B — poses a grave national threat. 

These measures undermine not just women’s rights, but the operational readiness of our military, where the right to contraception is a linchpin of medical and combat preparedness.



The Department of Defense’s 2022 report highlights a stark reality: 8,942 reported sexual assaults, a slight increase from the previous year. This statistic underscores a crucial but often overlooked aspect of military readiness — the well-being and autonomy of our service members, particularly women, who constitute 17.3% of the active-duty force.

My personal journey through two decades in the Marine Corps punctuates this issue. As a young U.S. Marine lance corporal, I encountered a nightmare I never could have imagined. The assault came from my platoon sergeant, a figure of authority and trust, and it shattered my foundational sense of safety within the ranks. 

Reporting the incident required every ounce of courage I had, only to be met with a barrage of shaming and disbelief. My assailant denied everything, leaving me isolated within a system I believed would protect me.

The legal process that ensued was grueling. My assailant was eventually found guilty and separated from the Marine Corps, but the toll on me was unforgettable. I consider myself fortunate, in a sense, to have immediate access to emergency contraception and medical care, which played a crucial role in my physical recovery. 

But the scars were more profound than the bruises and tearing that my body endured.

My resolve to protect others from similar fates led me to mentor young female Marines, cautioning them of the dangers within the ranks. This commitment followed me throughout my career, influencing my role as a drill instructor and advocacy for reproductive health as an essential element to operational readiness. Even while deployed to combat zones like Iraq and Afghanistan, I took on the role of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Staff Non-Commissioned Officer. 

Years later, as a senior and established leader in the Marine Corps, I thought I was safe. I was wrong. It happened again, underscoring the threat and the importance of emergency contraception in safeguarding my autonomy and well-being. 

My departure from the military after two decades was a complex decision, shaped by my experiences of sexual assault, the sacrifices I’d made and the birth of my son. It marked the end of a chapter defined by service and survival.

The personal battles I faced highlight not just individual hardships but systemic neglect impacting servicewomen across the board. This reality becomes even starker with the Dobbs decision exacerbating existing barriers, severely restricting access to necessary reproductive services for 40% of active-duty servicewomen.  

The campaign against reproductive freedoms and contraception by MAGA Republicans, marked by misinformation and vehement opposition to protective legislation, highlights a profound disconnect with societal demands.

This is particularly true in states like Arizona, where extremist right-wing lawmakers blocked the advancement of the Right to Contraception Act — legislation favored by 81% of the public to protect the right to contraception amidst growing threats. Our state’s GOP Senate Majority Leader Sonny Borrelli, himself a retired Marine, trivialized the issue by suggesting women could just put “aspirin between the knees” as a form of birth control

House and Senate Republicans have since used their rules to block a vote — or even a debate — on the bill to enshrine the right to contraceptives in Arizona law. Such obstructive and similar dismissive actions not only disrespect women and the public’s overwhelming support for the right to contraception, but they also neglect the universal importance of reproductive health care. 

What right-wing extremists fail to recognize is that reproductive health care and the right to contraception transcend partisanship and resonate equally with various genders, ages, and racial groups. The right to contraception is foundational not only for individual health and autonomy, but also for our military’s operational readiness. It enables service members to manage family planning, maintain readiness and recover from sexual assault trauma

Through my advocacy and mentoring of young female Marines, I’ve seen firsthand the difference that accessible, comprehensive reproductive health care can make. It’s time for policymakers to also recognize the paramount importance of safeguarding our reproductive freedoms and right to contraception as an essential component of our national defense.

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