Pentagon Pledges Abortions for Service Members

Joe Biden’s Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin responded to the Supreme Court’s ruling reversing Roe v. Wade by immediately proclaiming the military will work to continue providing abortions to service members.

In a statement issued Friday, Austin said the Defense Department is evaluating its policies in light of the decision in order to “continue to provide seamless access to reproductive health care as permitted by federal law.”

Federal law currently permits military medical facilities to perform abortions when a mother’s life is in danger or in cases of rape or incest. Tricare is the military health care program that covers service members and their families, and it covers abortions only in the same situations.

Service members and their families are therefore generally required to pay out-of-pocket for the procedure and obtain abortions off-base. Those stationed in locations where abortion will be restricted or prohibited now that Roe has been ended will have to travel to obtain an abortion.

Congressional Democrats were addressing the military abortion question last week during meetings of the House Appropriations Committee regarding the Defense Authorization Act. Because of the leak of the draft opinion by Justice Samuel Alito in the Dobbs case several weeks ago, lawmakers were making post-Roe preparations before the ruling was issued Friday morning.

Democrats passed an amendment that would prevent military commanding officers from denying official leave to service members seeking an abortion or those asking for leave to help someone else obtain an abortion.

Committee Chair Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) said that the amendment would help to “empower all women to be able to make deeply personal life decisions without politicians inserting themselves into a doctor’s office.”

Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) introduced an amendment to strike the portion of the Democrat proposal that would protect service members’ access to abortions. He said the move by Democrats was political and asked why the proposal they presented did not include protections for troops needing leave for mental health therapy or cancer screenings.

Harris added that the abortion protection measure is “interfering in the military that this committee shouldn’t be doing.”

In the last two months, the Army has been drafting a policy that would allow soldiers to request a transfer if their assigned station is in a location where they feel that local laws “discriminate against them based on gender, sex, religion, race, or pregnancy.”