June 27, 2022 -- The U.S. Department of Defense is trying to figure out how to address the issue of abortion access for military members and their families in the wake of Roe v. Wade being overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III says the Pentagon wants to make sure America’s military members and their families maintain access to “reproductive health care,” but he didn’t provide specifics.
“Nothing is more important to me or to this Department than the health and well-being of our Service members, the civilian workforce and DOD families,” Austin said in a statement Friday, after the Supreme Court’s decision.
“I am committed to taking care of our people and ensuring the readiness and resilience of our Force. The Department is examining this decision closely and evaluating our policies to ensure we continue to provide seamless access to reproductive health care as permitted by federal law.”
Military members already faced restrictions when it came to abortion. Because of the Hyde Amendment, the military can only provide funding for abortions when the patient’s life is at risk, Politico reported. And Tricare, the Pentagon insurance program, only pays for abortions in cases of rape, incest, or if the patient’s health is at stake.
Military members or their families who sought an elective abortion were left to their own devices and had to pay for it themselves. Now, with the Roe ruling, soldiers based in states that ban abortions outright will have to travel to other states to get an abortion at a private facility – and getting permission to travel is not a sure thing.
In Congress, Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee have been trying to ensure abortion access for troops by putting language in a Pentagon spending bill that would prohibit commanders from denying leave to troops who seek an abortion, Politico reported.
“Now is the time to empower all women to be able to make deeply personal life decisions without politicians inserting themselves into a doctor’s office,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, a Democrat from Connecticut.
Rep. Andy Harris, a Republican from Maryland, said the Democrats were playing politics. He asked why these kinds of protections for leave were not included for other medical procedures, such as cancer screening.
“This is interfering in the military that this committee shouldn’t be doing,” Harris said. “This is a bill too important for this kind of politics.”
Women comprise about 20% of the U.S. military’s 1.3 million active-duty members, Stars and Stripes reported, citing Department of Defense data.