WASHINGTON, D.C. (LifeSiteNews) – The Department of Defense (DOD) released a series of memos stating that it would pay the travel expenses of service members seeking abortions or fertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) and grant them paid leave while obtaining it.
The memos, released Thursday, state that “the DOD health care provider will place the Service member considering pregnancy termination in a medical temporary nondeployable status without reference to the Service member’s pregnancy status, until appropriate medical care and the necessary recovery period are complete.”
Soldiers have 20 weeks to notify their relative departments of their intent to access “reproductive health care” and a leave of absence of up to 21 days with pay for as long as their travel and “care” requires, subject to their commander’s approval. The policy also allows for leave and pay for service members to accompany spouses or dependents seeking “care.”
— House Armed Services Democrats (@HASCDemocrats) February 16, 2023
The memos further instruct commanders to approve the requested leave of absence when the soldier identifies a need for it, unless “the Service member’s absence would impair proper execution of the military mission.” Further, commanders are expected to expedite the requests, and are forbidden from commanding soldiers from consulting a chaplain, obtaining counsel or medical testing before granting leave.
The military has 30 days to implement the memos’ policies.
The memos clarify a previous memo released by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in October that announced that the government would pay the travel expenses of soldiers, their spouses or dependents seeking an abortion. The DOD framed the memo as a response to the Dobbs decision, which allowed the states to determine abortion law. Abortion is currently limited or banned in 13 states where about 240,000 servicemen and women live, military.com reported.
Shortly after the release of the Dobbs decision in June, Austin issued a statement saying that the DOD was “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.”
The DOD, commenting on the memos, said in a statement, “Our Service members and their families do not control where they are stationed, and due to the nature of military service, are frequently required to travel or move to meet operational requirements.”
“The efforts taken by the Department today will not only ensure that Service members and their families are afforded time and flexibility to make private health care decisions, but will also ensure Service members are able to access non-covered reproductive health care regardless of where they are stationed,” the DOD continued.
Reacting to the memo, Republican Alabama Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, released a statement saying, “Today, the Biden administration chose to make the Department of Defense an abortion travel agency over a lethal fighting force.”
“As I have repeatedly told the political leaders of this administration, taking this action jeopardizes congressional authorizations for our warfighters,” Rodgers continued. “I am extremely disappointed the Biden administration chose once again to use our military to placate the radical left.”
The Biden administration has taken a number of steps to expand abortion access in the wake of the Dobbs decision.
Last month, the Food and Drug Administration released new guidelines allowing retail pharmacies to sell abortion pills over the counter. Last September, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) promised to perform abortions at all of its facilities, including in states that have limitations on abortion. The VA committed its first abortion at one of its facilities late that month.