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The Pentagon is evaluating its policies following the Supreme Court’s Friday decision striking down Roe v. Wade, which since 1973 had guaranteed a woman’s right to an abortion, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said.
The ruling is set to affect thousands of military personnel and their families, who may be stationed or work in states where abortions will soon be outlawed or heavily restricted.
The Defense 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,” Austin said in a statement.
“Nothing is more important to me or to this Department than the health and well-being of our Service members, the civilian workforce and [Defense Department] families. I am committed to taking care of our people and ensuring the readiness and resilience of our Force,” he said.
The Pentagon had faced pressure ahead of the ruling over whether it would protect access to abortion for pregnant service members who would have to seek the procedure in a different state than where they are stationed. Such a process isn’t always easy for troops, as they usually must get approval from superiors to travel from their installations.
Service members within the Army are likely to experience the most difficulty in obtaining an abortion. It is the largest military service and has thousands of troops stationed in states that already or will soon have the strictest anti-abortion laws, including Texas, Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Kentucky.
Though the Army has a compassionate reassignment policy — a rule that permits troops to seek to change their duty station if dealing with a difficult family situation — federal funds cannot be used for abortions, including at military health care centers, unless the pregnancy is the result of incest, rape or a threat to the mother’s life.
Austin did not say what policies would be reviewed or what changes might soon be coming, if any.