Defense

Pentagon: Supreme Court abortion ruling won’t affect procedure on military facilities

The Pentagon is seen from the Washington Monument on Friday, September 24, 2021.
Greg Nash
The Pentagon is seen from the Washington Monument on Friday, September 24, 2021.

The Pentagon on Tuesday sought to alleviate fears over the impact on service members or dependents from last week’s Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade.

The Defense Department said in a memo it will continue to provide abortions in cases when the mother’s life is at risk or if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, instances known as “covered abortions.”

Federal law prohibits the Pentagon from performing or paying for other types of the procedure, according to the memo, signed by Gil Cisneros, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness. 

“The Supreme Court’s decision does not prohibit the Department from continuing to perform covered abortions, consistent with federal law. There will be no interruption to this care,” it said.

The memo follows the Supreme Court’s Friday decision striking down Roe v. Wade, which since 1973 had guaranteed a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion. The ruling is set to affect tens of thousands of military personnel and their families who may be stationed or work in states where abortions will soon be outlawed or heavily restricted.  

The memo notes the court’s decision “will have significant implications for our Service members, dependents, other beneficiaries of DoD health care services, and civilian employees, as well as the readiness of the Force.” 

The document also asserts that states where abortion is banned or may soon be restricted “may not impose criminal or civil liability on federal employees who perform their duties in a manner authorized by federal law.” 

Furthermore, the military will work with the Justice Department to ensure access to counsel for civilian employees and service members if needed. 

The Supreme Court’s decision also doesn’t affect the Pentagon’s existing leave policies, and service members will still be allowed to travel to receive an abortion, which may be paid for by the U.S. government. 

Civilian employees, meanwhile, can request sick leave or other forms of time off “to meet the health care needs of the employee and his or her family members.” The Pentagon notes that sick leave can also be used to cover travel. 

The memo also echoes the statement made by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin last week, saying that the Pentagon was evaluating its policies to ensure continued access to reproductive health care. 

“The implications of the Supreme Court’s decision are complicated and must be evaluated against various state laws, together with the views of the Department of Justice,” the memo states. “We are reviewing our current policies and procedures and…will issue additional guidance as appropriate.” 

Tags Abortions Gil Cisneros Military service members Roe v. Wade
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