Pentagon weighs in on abortion rights
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has the Pentagon is reviewing its policies and available options “as permitted by federal law” to protect American service members’ access to abortion, following the Supreme Court’s move to repeal the 1973 Roe v. Wade judgement.
“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,” Austin said in a brief statement on Friday, after the Supreme Court struck down the ruling that guaranteed the absolute right to abortion in the first trimester and limited rights in the second.
“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,” the US defense chief added.
The Department of Defense has come under increased pressure by activists and lawmakers to ensure easy access to abortion for service members since a draft Supreme Court ruling was leaked to the media in May.
Federal law forbidding the use of tax dollars for most abortions precludes military doctors from providing these services. This means troops have to travel off base for an abortion, and with the overturning of Roe v. Wade, many would have to go to a provider in another state.
Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming have all banned abortion in most cases since Friday’s ruling, or will do so in the coming days and weeks. In Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Ohio, and South Carolina, legislation will soon take effect banning elective abortion past a cutoff point between 6 and 15 weeks into pregnancy. Lawmakers in several other states, including Nebraska, Virginia, and West Virginia, have promised to introduce similar restrictions in the near future.
Although the US Army and Air Force have taken steps to make it easier for service members to get time off for abortion, pro-choice activists say the Pentagon must take action to ensure that all branches of the military protect access to these services.