Military to allow leave and travel allowance when members seek abortions

SecDef says he is committed to ‘taking all appropriate action’

The Department of Defense will allow leave and cover travel expenses when military members need to travel to obtain an abortion, the Pentagon said Thursday.

The department said it would establish travel and transportation allowances for service members and their dependents, “as appropriate and consistent with applicable federal law and operational requirements,” and as necessary amend travel regulations, “to access non-covered reproductive health care that is unavailable within the local area of a service member’s permanent duty station.”

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Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III said the department will try to that ensure service members and their families can “access reproductive health care and health care providers can operate effectively.”

In a memo released Thursday, Austin said he has heard concerns expressed since June’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. That 6-3 decision returned the question of abortion’s legality to the states, overturning the earlier Roe vs. Wade decision.

This month, a Hamilton County judge indefinitely suspended an Ohio law prohibiting most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, extending a previous, temporary suspension of the law.

Some 80,000 female active-duty service members are stationed in states where access to abortion is restricted by state laws, according to Military Times.

“We also recognize that recent developments may create legal and financial risk for our health care providers as they carry out their lawful federal duties,” Austin said in his memo. “I am committed to the department taking all appropriate action, within its authority and consistent with applicable federal law, as soon as possible to ensure that our service members and their families can access reproductive health care and our health care providers can operate effectively.”

Austin also directed the Pentagon to establish privacy protections for reproductive health care information, standardizing and extending the time service members have to notify commanders of a pregnancy to no later than 20 weeks, unless job requirements mandate an earlier report.

He also ordered the department to develop a program to reimburse applicable fees for DOD health care providers who wish to become licensed in a state other than where they are currently licensed.

Further, Austin seeks new protections for health care providers who are “subject to adverse action, including civil or criminal penalties or loss of license or reprimand, for appropriately performing their official duties.”

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