Pentagon to pay travel costs for military service members to get abortions

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin walks to welcome Indian Minister Of External Affairs Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar during an enhanced honor cordon at the Pentagon on September 26, 2022, in Arlington, Virginia.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin walks to welcome Indian Minister Of External Affairs Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar during an enhanced honor cordon at the Pentagon on September 26, 2022, in Arlington, Virginia. | Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

The U.S. Department of Defense will pay for service members to travel out-of-state to obtain abortions to "ensure that our Service members can access reproductive health care and our health care providers can operate effectively."

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin sent a memorandum to senior Pentagon leadership Thursday on "Ensuring Access to Reproductive Health Care." He directed the department to establish "travel and transportation allowances for Service members and their dependents, as appropriate and consistent with applicable federal law and operational requirements."

He also called for creating a "uniform Department of Defense policy that allows for appropriate administrative absence consistent with applicable federal law for non-covered reproductive healthcare."

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The memo outlines that the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in June to allow states to pass laws banning or restricting abortion will mean that "significant numbers of Service members and their families may be forced to travel greater distances, take more time off from work, and pay more out of pocket expenses to receive reproductive health care."

Lloyd believes that the effects of the court'sruling will impact the Department of Defense's ability to "recruit, retain, and maintain the readiness of a highly qualified force."

The secretary ordered the amendment of "any applicable travel regulations" to "facilitate official travel to access non-covered reproductive health care that is unavailable within the local area of a Service member's permanent duty station."

He suggested new policies were necessary due to "concerns from many of our Service members and their families about the complexity and the uncertainty that they now face in accessing reproductive health care, including abortion services."

"The actions outlined in this memorandum will be executed as soon as possible. All actions will be completed no later than the end of this calendar year, to the maximum extent possible," the memo states. "The Department of Defense will continue to closely evaluate our policies to ensure that we continue to provide seamless access to reproductive health care as appropriate and consistent with federal law."

In a statement, Marjorie Dannenfelser of the national grassroots pro-life group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America decried the Pentagon's new policy.

"The Biden administration will stop at nothing to impose abortion on demand until birth nationwide, paid for by taxpayers, no matter what laws they have to ignore or rewrite," she said.

The new memo comes as other federal agencies have enacted policies to protect access to abortion for service members. 

The Biden administration submitted an interim final rule to the Federal Register in September that will authorize Veterans Administration hospitals to perform abortions on service members, even in states where the procedure is illegal.

President Joe Biden expressed support for establishing a federal abortion leave fund in a previously taped interview forum with NowThis News slated to air this weekend.  

"It is heartbreaking to see President Biden is so obsessed with abortion on demand that he is willing to use American tax dollars to push for more abortion rather than offering federal funding for lifesaving options offered by pro-life organizations and maternity homes around the country," Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life, said in a statement.

The conservative advocacy group CatholicVote argued in a Twitter thread that a federal abortion fund would amount to "govt sponsored abortion vacations" that would "take tax dollars out of the pockets of American workers to pay for time off to destroy unborn children." 

The president also hopes to establish a federal right to abortion after the midterm elections.

Speaking at the Howard Theatre last week, Biden stressed the importance of electing "more Democratic senators to the United States Senate and more Democrats to keep control of the House of Representatives," vowing to "codify Roe once and for all." Biden previously promised to push for Congress to codify Roe days after his inauguration.

The Women's Health Protection Act, legislation that would establish a right to abortion at the federal level, has come up short of the votes needed for passage in the evenly divided U.S. Senate after passing the Democrat-controlled U.S. House on party-line vote.

As Democrats tout the Women's Health Protection Act as simply a codification of Roe, pro-life groups contend the measure will go far beyond Roe and establish a right to abortion until birth.

Public opinion polling indicates that most Americans oppose allowing abortions throughout all nine months of pregnancy.

A May poll from CBS News found that 17% of Americans believed that abortion should be permitted at any point in a pregnancy. A Pew Research Center survey from that same month measured support for legal abortion in all cases at 19%.

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at:

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