Pentagon will provide travel funds and aid for soldiers seeking abortion
Updated: 20 minutes ago Published: 21 minutes ago
WASHINGTON (AP) – The Pentagon will provide travel funds and assistance for soldiers and their dependents who seek abortions but are located in states where they are now illegal, according to a new department policy released Thursday. The military will also increase privacy protections for care-seekers.
The order issued by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin underscores the rights and protections of service members and their dependents, wherever they are, which was a major concern for soldiers after Roe v. Wade was overturned in June.
Access to abortion has become a central issue in the midterm elections. President Joe Biden promised this week that the first bill he would send to Capitol Hill next year would write abortion protection into law if Democrats control enough seats in Congress to pass it.
The High Court decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson case took away women’s constitutional protections for abortion and left it to the states to determine whether abortion is legal within their borders. In the months that followed, abortion has been banned or outright banned in more than a dozen states.
The new policy sets guidelines so as not to allow local commanders to influence whether service members receive care or create a culture where service members or their dependents do not come forward for fear that They may have to face the consequences. It builds on an initial response by the Pentagon in June, where, days after the Supreme Court ruling, the Pentagon said it would continue to allow medical leave for service members who had to travel out of state to have an abortion. is required, but noted that it needed to be reviewed in court decisions and subsequent state laws to see whether further guidance would be necessary.
The Pentagon is also concerned that Dobbs’ decision could affect recruitment and retention as service members or potential recruits weigh the risk that they will be assigned to states where abortions are illegal. Several of the Pentagon’s major military bases are located in states including Texas and Florida that now have anti-abortion laws in place.
New guidelines direct each military base to publicly display what reproductive health care support is available to service members and their dependents, extend the time in which a service member must report a pregnancy to commanders by 20 weeks and provide additional protection to protect health care. Providers who provide abortion services.
Under federal law, the Pentagon’s health care system can only provide abortions in cases of rape or incest or when the mother’s life is in danger. This does not change under the new policy. The funds to be provided by the military to service members would only cover transportation; They will not pay for abortion services that are not covered by federal law.
Attorney Natalie Khwam, who represented the family of slain US soldier Vanessa Guillen, whose body was found outside the confines of Fort Hood, Texas, said the policy was part of an ongoing effort by the Pentagon to address a military culture Which has not been helpful to the women service members. Guillen’s death caused massive changes to how sexual assault and assault are addressed in the military.
“When you are protecting a woman, you are protecting a family, you are protecting everyone who is in her connivance. It could be her children, it could be her parents, it could be her spouse or siblings, and you are definitely protecting the country because she is serving the country,” Khwam said. Told.
Associated Press writer Lolita Baldor contributed to this report
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