Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III has directed the Department of Defense (DoD) to “ensure access to reproductive health care” for its service members, including paying them to travel to get an abortion.
In an Oct. 20 memo to the department, Austin said that the Supreme Court judgment to overturn Roe v. Wade was creating difficulties for service members—forcing them to travel greater distances, take more time off from work, and pay more out-of-pocket expenses to get abortions.
Such consequences create “unusual, extraordinary, hardship, or emergency circumstances” for service members and their dependents. It will also interfere with the military’s ability to retain, recruit, and maintain readiness of a qualified force, he insisted.
Austin instructed the DoD to “establish travel and transportation allowances for Service members and their dependents, as appropriate and consistent with applicable federal law and operational requirements, and as necessary amend 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.”
Austin also asked for creating a uniform DoD policy that allows for “appropriate administrative absence” in compliance with federal laws on non-covered abortions.
The Defense Secretary said that the DoD will continue offering contraception and family planning services to its members and their families. Moreover, some of the medical treatment facilities in the military will start offering “dedicated hours” for walk-in contraceptive care for its members.
The Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness has been tasked with overseeing the implementation of Austin’s instructions.
Military and Abortion
Back in June when the Supreme Court made its decision on Roe, Austin had made it clear that the Defense Department will continue offering “seamless access” to abortions as permitted by federal laws.
In an interview with The Epoch Times, retired Army Major General Paul Vallely criticized the DoD for supporting abortion access. He called the Pentagon stance “social engineering” of America’s military forces.
The DoD does not have any policy to accommodate service members who seek an abortion but are stationed in a state which bans abortion, he pointed out.
“The last thing our military needs is to influence our members of the military on whether to abort a baby or not. This decision further strains the recruiting efforts which are in drastic decline. The military medical organizations need not to be involved or have any focus on the abortion issue,” Vallely said.
Of the 1.3 million active-duty members in the U.S. military, women make up 20 percent. Roughly 95 percent of women serving in the military are estimated to be of reproductive age according to the DoD.