Hardly Anyone Used Pentagon’s New Taxpayer-Funded Abortion Policy in 2023

By Published on March 28, 2024

A new Department of Defense (DOD) policy allowing American service members to be reimbursed for out-of-state travel for abortions was used 12 times during the second half of 2023, the Pentagon said Tuesday.

The policy, which took effect in early 2023 to counteract the overturning of Roe v. Wade, cost the DOD about $44,791 over the six months from June to December, Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh said Tuesday. It sparked a furor among pro-life Republicans who argued that the Pentagon was trying to skirt state and federal laws that prevent the administration from paying for abortions, pulling the Pentagon into partisan political issues.

In October 2022, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announced that service members and dependents would be able to claim reimbursements for out-of-state travel to receive certain forms of assisted reproductive technologies, such as in vitro fertilization and abortions.

The policy took effect the following February. An accompanying directive authorized commanders to give the service members using it extra leave time.

“These policies ensure that service members and their families are afforded the time and flexibility to make private healthcare decisions, as well as supporting access to noncovered reproductive healthcare, regardless of where they are stationed,” Singh explained.

The statistics record the number of times the policy was utilized, not how many members of the military used it (leaving open the possibility that one female soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine could have taken advantage of the policies more than one time). The funds covered lodging, transportation and meals during the leave period.

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“For example, this could entail a service member traveling from their home station in one state or overseas location to a state where they can access noncovered reproductive healthcare services, and then returning home to that home station. Of note, a service member can use the policy more than once,” Singh said.

The Pentagon did not track the exact number of individuals or which types of reproductive procedures were sought due to privacy reasons, Singh said. Information on utilization of the policy before June was not available because the military services did not have a way to track usage before then.

After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022 giving states the power to regulate abortion, many state legislatures passed stronger restrictions or outright bans on abortion.

The Pentagon argued that abortion bans could unfairly burden women in the military, making it harder for them to do their jobs and damage military readiness.

Republican Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville blocked officer confirmations at the highest ranks for nearly nine months in protest of the travel policy, relenting in December.


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