Pentagon to reimburse service members for abortion travel
Pentagon will reimburse military personnel who travel to have an abortion. This move was announced by the department on Thursday. It is intended to help soldiers stationed in countries where it is not allowed.
In a memo, Lloyd Austin, Defense Secretary, stated that the military’s travel requirements should not affect a person’s ability to access reproductive care. The department will reimburse service members’ travel and transportation expenses and provide leave for them and their dependents.
Austin stated in the order that “Since Roe v. Wade’s Supreme Court decision [to overturn Roe]], we have heard concerns by many of our Service personnel and their families regarding the complexity and uncertainty they now face when accessing reproductive health care including abortion services.”
The procedure will not be covered.
Austin stated that “the practical consequences of recent changes are, that significant number of Service members, their families, may have to travel greater distances and take more time off work to receive reproductive healthcare care,” Austin said.
He wrote that such effects were “in my opinion, unusual, extraordinary hardships, or emergency circumstances” for Service members and their dependents. They would hinder our ability to recruit and retain a highly-qualified force and would also affect our ability to maintain readiness.
The military cannot perform abortions on-base. Military health insurance does not cover abortion, even if it is performed by a private doctor. Except in the cases of rape or incest, the Hyde amendment forbids federal funding from being used to abort.
This memo establishes new privacy protections to service members and directs the Pentagon’s establishment of protections for military providers. They won’t be subject to criminal or civil liability from any state officials or lose their licenses for performing official duties. To prevent this, the department will work with other departments to create a program that reimburses any fees for Pentagon health care professionals who want to be licensed in another state.
The memo stated that all actions would be completed by the end of the calendar year “to the greatest extent possible.”