Jun 25, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Defense Department to keep access to "reproductive health care" after Roe v. Wade's end

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaking during a press conference at a NATO meeting in Brussels on June 16.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in Brussels on June 16. Photo: Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Friday that the Pentagon is working to ensure that members of the military, their families and its civilian employees will still have access to "reproductive health care" after the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Why it matters: The Defense Department currently does not have a policy to accommodate service members or employees who are seeking an abortion but are stationed in a state that has outlawed abortion, Politico reports.

  • Federal law currently allows military medical facilities to provide abortions only in cases of rape, incest or if a woman’s life is in danger, while the military's health program is allowed to cover abortions at private facilities for those same reasons only.

What they're saying: "Nothing is more important to me or to this Department than the health and well-being of our Service members, the civilian workforce and DOD families," Austin said in a statement on Friday.

  • "I am committed to taking care of our people and ensuring the readiness and resilience of our Force. The Department is 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," he added.

The big picture: The court's decision may further strain the military's recruitment efforts — already hampered by low employment and other factors as potential recruits may fear being stationed in states that have banned abortions, according to Bloomberg.

  • Women make up around 20% of the military's 1.3 million-member active-duty force, and 95% of them are of reproductive age, according to Stars and Stripes citing department statistics.

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