Defense

Pentagon allows networks to access abortion-related websites

The Pentagon is seen on Thursday, November 4, 2021 in Arlington, Va.
Greg Nash
A view of the Pentagon on Nov. 4, 2021, in Arlington, Va.

The Department of Defense (DOD) said Wednesday that it will allow its networks to access abortion-related websites, permitting military and civilian personnel to access those sites on the agency’s computers.

“We continually evaluate the categorized content that is blocked on DOD networks,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Timothy Gorman told The Hill in an emailed statement.

“We determined that we should allow content categorized as abortion-related on healthcare requirements,” he added.

Gorman told The Hill that access to these sites was previously restricted due to bandwidth concerns.

“We are working our way through all DOD networks now to ensure that restriction is lifted uniformly,” he added. “Further, we are updating our broader policy to ensure consistency and access to appropriate information for the DoD workforce.”

The change, which was first reported by The Military Times, comes as the agency faces tough questions on how it will protect service members seeking abortion after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that guaranteed a constitutional right to abortion.

Federal law prohibits the military from providing the service unless a pregnancy was a result of rape or incest, or if it endangers the life of the parent.

Last Tuesday, Gil Cisneros, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, issued a memo saying that the high court’s action wouldn’t affect the agency’s ability to provide abortions.

On Friday, Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) led a group of her Democratic colleagues in a letter pressing Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to protect abortion rights for service members, particularly in states that are poised to restrict the service.

“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,” the Democrats wrote.

“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,” they added.

Tags abortion rights Defense Department Department of Defense Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization Gil Cisneros Mazie Hirono Pentagon Roe v. Wade
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