Eight Senate Democrats are calling on the Defense Department to commit to providing abortions to female servicemembers after the Supreme Court kicked the issue of abortion law back to individual states.
“As a result of the ruling, servicemembers’ reproductive and health care rights have become dependent on their duty station,” the letter written by Sen. Mazie Hirono of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) and signed by seven others read. “Many of the states expected to prohibit or greatly limit abortions are home to military installations including Arizona, Florida, Georgia, and Texas.
“In Missouri, even in cases of ectopic pregnancies, doctors are forced to wait to the point at which a mother’s life is threatened before lifesaving abortion procedures can be performed. These law[s] could force servicemembers in these states to face criminal prosecution or life-threatening circumstances.”
Five other Democrat SASC members signed onto the letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, including Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.; Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill.; Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.; Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.; and Jacky Rosen, D-Nev. Sens. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and John Hickenlooper, D-Colo., from the home state of the Air Force, also signed the letter.
“We owe it to these servicemembers to look after them and ensure they have the ability to continue accessing safe reproductive healthcare no matter where their military service sends them,” the letter read.
The letter called it Austin’s responsibility to ensure military abortions, permit travel for abortions, including those deployed overseas, and seek answers to the following questions:
- How DoD will protect servicemembers from legal prosecution.
- How this decision will impact access to leave and travel regulations for abortion care.
- How DoD will protect a woman’s right to privacy and protect women from retaliation, influence or retribution as a result of seeking abortion care.
The letter added any impediment to military abortion access would impact recruitment and military readiness.
“It further threatens recruitment and retention as servicemembers will undoubtedly elect to leave the military rather than run the risk of being assigned to a duty station where they and their family will be denied fundamental rights,” the letter concluded.
Federal law prohibits the military from performing or paying for abortions, except in the cases of rape or incest or the mother’s life is at risk, The Hill reported.
Undersecretary of Defense Gil Cisneros vowed in a memo that the military will continue to provide abortions in compliance with federal law and permit travel and leave for abortion care.
But the Senate letter to Austin said Cisneros’ memo “failed to speak to abortion access or protections for the rank and file,” the letter read.
“We urge you expand on the Undersecretary’s memorandum and give this request the fullest possible consideration,” the letter urged.