In a memo released on Thursday, the Department of Defense said that it will establish a travel allowance for service members who cross state lines to receive abortions, according to a new Politico report. The cost of the procedure itself, however, will not be covered.
“Our Service members and their families are often required to travel or move to meet our staffing, operational, and training requirements. Such moves should not limit their access to reproductive health care,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin wrote.
He added that the “practical effects of recent changes” will ultimately hurt military readiness, referencing the Supreme Court’s controversial decision in June to strike down Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark ruling that established the constitutional right to abortion.
Austin also noted that in order to receive necessary reproductive care, “significant numbers” of service members and their families will be forced to travel long distances, take time off work, and pay more out of pocket.
“In my judgment, such effects qualify as unusual, extraordinary, hardship, or emergency circumstances for Service members and their dependents and will interfere with our ability to recruit, retain, and maintain the readiness of a highly qualified force,” he continued.
Under current federal law, most abortions are not allowed to be performed at military medical facilities, except in cases of rape, incest, or when the health of the mother is at risk. Service members who want an abortion not related to those categories must seek care outside of the military system. Moreover, service members’ Tricare health insurance does not cover the cost of getting an abortion privately.
In the roughly four months since the Supreme Court overturned Roe, sixty-six clinics across fifteen states have stopped providing abortion procedures, according to a Politico report earlier this month.
The data, compiled by the Guttmacher Institute, showed that of those sixty-six clinics, forty still offer non-abortion services, while twenty-six have closed down. The fourteen states where abortions are almost entirely unavailable are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Meanwhile, abortion access is significantly limited in a fifteenth state, Georgia, where the procedure is allowed until the detection of fetal cardiac activity, generally occurring around the sixth week of pregnancy.
Guttmacher’s analysis revealed that the fourteen states were responsible for more than 125,000 abortions in 2020, while more than 41,000 abortions were performed in Georgia in the same year.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Finance and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.