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Pentagon will pay for troops’ abortion travel expenses, SECDEF Austin announces

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III briefs the media on Afghanistan, the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., Aug. 18, 2021. (DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)
October 20, 2022

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announced on Thursday that the Pentagon will pay for troops’ travel to obtain abortions as part of a broader Defense Department effort to “ensure access to reproductive health care.”

According to a Department of Defense memo signed by Austin, the department must take “all appropriate action, within its authority and consistent with applicable federal law, as soon as possible to ensure that Service members and their families can access reproductive health care and health care providers can operate effectively.”

Lloyd directed the department to:

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 any applicable travel regulations, to facilitate official travel to access non-covered reproductive health care that is unavailable within the local area of a Service member’s permanent duty station.

The announcement comes after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade earlier this year, ruling that abortion is not a constitutional right.

“Since the Supreme Court’s decision, we have heard concerns from many of our Service members and their families about the complexity and the uncertainty that they now face in accessing reproductive health care, including abortion services,” Austin wrote. “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.”

In June, the Defense Department announced that it will continue to perform “essential” abortions on troops, dependents and other beneficiaries.

According to a DoD memo obtained by ABC News reporter Matt Seyler, the department claimed that overturning of Roe v. Wade “does not prohibit” it from “continuing to perform” certain abortions “consistent with federal law.”

“Federal law restricts the Department from performing abortions or paying to have them performed unless the life of the mother would be endangered if the fetus were carried to term, or unless the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest,” the memo stated. “There will be no interruption to this care.”