The Pentagon will begin paying for troops and their family members to travel for abortions, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced in a memo outlining several policy changes and guidelines designed to ensure the military community follows the Supreme Court’s overturning of the law retains access to reproductive health care Roe v. Calf.
The changes include or call for new guidance and protections for service members, commanders and health care providers, which Pentagon officials said would follow federal law.
The move is in response to the court’s ruling Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, commonly called the Dobbs decision, Pentagon spokesman Brig. said Gen. Patrick Ryder. The June ruling overturned federal safeguards that had prevented several states from banning abortion and other reproductive health services.
“The practical impact of recent changes is that service members may be forced to travel greater distances, take more time off work and pay more out-of-pocket expenses to access reproductive health care, all of which have readiness, recruitment and implications on maintaining the American armed forces,” Ryder said, noting that troops and military families travel and relocate frequently, and “such relocations should not limit their access to reproductive health care.”
Although the details of the travel allowance and holiday accommodation have yet to be finalized, defense officials believe they would apply to troops and families stationed abroad as well.
The Pentagon already has qualitative and quantitative information showing concerns about access to reproductive care have impacted recruitment, retention and readiness, a defense official told reporters on condition of anonymity.
Austin’s memo directs the Department of Defense to help protect the privacy of pregnant soldiers and loved ones, protect military health care providers, establish vacation and travel allowances for women who must travel to obtain abortions or other treatments, and raise awareness of the resources available to sharpen. The move comes less than three weeks before the contentious midterm elections, in which five states will vote on abortion rights.
A RAND study released in September said that 40 percent of active-duty women soldiers in the continental United States are stationed in states where abortion is illegal or severely restricted. The federal government is prohibited from using taxpayer money directly to pay for abortions except in cases where the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest, or where the mother’s life is at risk. Between 2016 and 2021, 91 such abortions were performed at military treatment facilities, a second defense official said.
Austin’s memo instructs the Department of Defense:
- Establish an official policy to allow vacations specifically for reproductive health care not covered by or provided by military facilities, including abortions and in vitro fertilization;
- Provide travel and transportation allowances for troops and their dependents for official travel to access reproductive health services not available near their location;
- Develop a program to repay military health care providers for fees associated with being licensed in another state;
- Create a program to protect military health providers “who are subject to adverse measures” such as B. Loss of license or reprimand in order to properly perform their official duties.
- Provide additional privacy protections for “reproductive health information,” which includes extending the deadline for notifying commanders of pregnancy to “no later than 20 weeks unless special requirements for earlier notification are established”;
- Directs military health care providers not to report or share reproductive health information to commanders except in specific cases; and
- Improve education and information about resources and services available to troops and their families, including information about contraception.
“These measures will ensure service members have the time to make private decisions about their reproductive health care while maintaining commanders’ responsibility to meet operational requirements and ensure the health and safety of those in their care consistent with the.” readiness to protect,” the first defense official said.