Senate Dems question Pentagon on abortion access for service members following Supreme Court ruling

A group of Democrat senators say they are trying to understand what kind of access to abortion members of the military will still have

Updated: July 1, 2022 - 12:15pm

A group of Senate Democrats is asking the Pentagon to protect access to abortion following last week's Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade.

In a letter Thursday to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, the senators warn that because of the ruling the rights of some service members to access abortion will now depend on states, many of which have or are planning to restrict abortion access.

The group wants the Defense Department to take action that will protect the ability of individuals stationed where abortions are restricted to leave and get an abortion.

"Entrusted to your care are hundreds of thousands of troops, dependents, and Department of Defense (DOD) civilians who have lost access to safe abortions and now face threats of criminal prosecution for seeking out those services," reads the letter led by Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono. 

The letter also reads: "As the leader of our military services, it falls on you to preserve the health and welfare of our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Guardians."

Hirono is joined by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Tammy Duckworth (Ill.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Jacky Rosen (Nev.), Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper, both from Colorado.

Federal law bans the military from performing or funding abortions, unless the life of the mother is at risk, or the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.

Earlier this week, Gil Cisneros, the undersecretary of Defense for personnel and readiness,  issues a memo saying the military will continue to provide abortion in specific cases that fall within the parameters of federal law.

The memo also stated service members will still be able to travel to receive abortions and that civilian employees can request sick leave or personal time off for reproductive care.

However, the letter argues that Cisneros' memo "failed to speak to abortion access or protections for the rank and file" and that the senators are attempting to "better understand the implications this draconian ruling will have on Defense Department personnel."

The letter also states: "The men and women who join the military sacrifice an incredible amount in order to serve their country. We owe it to these service members to look after them and ensure they have the ability to continue accessing safe reproductive health care no matter where their military service sends them."