"The system in place meant to care for us clearly didn't."

Story No. 575: Sara from Japan

On July 17, 2018 I was 21 weeks and five days pregnant, and went to the Naval hospital in Yokosuka, Japan, where my family is stationed, for an anatomy scan. It was then discovered that our baby had anencephaly. This means her brain never formed beyond the brain stem. This condition is 100% fatal and there is no treatment. From about four weeks gestation she already had no chance of survival.

The doctors there told us our options. The pregnancy could continue, and we could lose her in the womb, during birth, or within a few minutes afterwards, or we could terminate the pregnancy. For us, and the vast majority of cases with fatal abnormalities, we wanted to terminate. However, although these are the choices available in medicine, Tricare policy [the insurance policy provided to military and dependents] only supports the first option: carry to term a baby with no chance of life.

It hurt a lot to hear this, because on top of the tragic situation we faced, the system in place meant to care for us clearly didn’t. The doctors wanted to help but the policy is as much against them as it is against us and other families.

It sounds unheard of that a military spouse would have to travel from where her family is stationed in Japan, alone, to California to receive medical care. But that’s what I had to do and it is what many other women have had to do as well, both active duty and spouses. There I had to fill out a form meant for those that are uninsured. Except I was, by the military, by the United States government, who didn’t want to help me or any other woman in my place.