Military health-care providers will continue to provide abortions in certain cases, even though the Supreme Court in June overturned the long-standing doctrine that determined such procedures are a constitutional right.
The decision to do so is “consistent with longstanding federal law that authorized the use of DoD funds and facilities to perform abortions in cases of rape, incest, or when the life of the mother would be endangered,” Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Gilbert R. Cisneros and acting Assistant Secretary for Health Affairs Seileen Mullen told the House Armed Services Committee during a hearing late last month.
Service members who must travel to receive authorized abortions may still do so at government expense and will not be charged leave, Cisneros and Mullen said. Those who wish to have non-covered abortions can travel as well, but must pay for travel and take leave.
The two civilian leaders also emphasized that the Pentagon is following White House guidelines, as set forth on the web at www.reproductiverights.gov. Additionally, the Defense Health Agency (DHA) plans to provide free walk-in contraceptive services at all military treatment facilities and hospitals.
They also expressed concern about the impact on service members that high court’s decision to rescind the Roe v. Wade ruling their predecessors made in 1973 would have.
“We have concerns that some service members may choose to leave the military altogether because they may be stationed in states with restrictive reproductive laws,” Cisneros and Mullen said.
Recruitment could be affected as well, they said. Volunteer rates for women – who now make up one-fifth of the total force – may decline significantly, they said. They added that sexual-assault victims have expressed concern about maintaining their privacy, or terminating unwanted pregnancies in cases of incest or rape.
They pledged to work in behalf of those in uniform decisions, they say would be adversely affected by the new restrictions on abortion.
“We will ensure that our service members are supported, have control over their most private health-care decisions, know their rights for all reproductive health-care decisions, and know their rights for all reproductive health-care options, including pregnancy termination,” they said.