Supreme Court ruling last week quashing Roe v. Wade and allowing states to ban abortion will not prevent the US military from allowing its medical providers to continue performing abortions in cases of rape, incest, or if the mother’s life would be endangered by carrying the pregnancy to term, according to a Pentagon memo released Tuesday.
The Pentagon also said the court’s decision would not affect its leave policy, which allows staff to travel as needed to receive care for one of the covered abortions or, in other cases, at their own expense. .
The High Court ruling, handed down on Friday, had raised questions about whether the military medical system would be allowed to provide access to covered abortions even in states that have banned or are considering banning the procedure. The Hyde Amendment that prohibits federal funding of abortions provides exemptions for the military in cases of rape, incest or risk to the health of the mother.
At least 13 states have now ceased almost all abortion services.
“The Supreme Court’s decision does not prohibit the Department from continuing to perform covered abortions, consistent with federal law. There will be no disruption to that care,” wrote Gil Cisneros Jr., deputy Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, in the memo this week to senior Pentagon officials.
“Health care providers will continue to follow existing departmental policy, and the leadership of military medical treatment facilities will implement measures to ensure continued access to care,” Cisneros continued.
Cisneros also pointed out that the Justice Department has long maintained “that states generally cannot impose criminal or civil liability on federal employees who perform their duties in a manner authorized by federal law” and that government advice would be provided to employees and service members as needed. .
Still, some military advocates and veterans say the Pentagon can do more.
“We’re already seeing states that don’t even recognize reproductive care and abortion in cases of rape and incest,” said Erin Kirk-Cuomo, a former Marine and member of Not in My Marine Corps, a group that helps soldiers who were sexually assaulted.
“All of the service members who are stationed on these bases and their families, especially with the high rates of sexual assault [in the military] what we see, it’s going to affect them,” Kirk-Cuomo told ABC News.
Her group has pushed military leaders to propose “compassionate reassignment” policies that would allow both active-duty women and families stationed in abortion-banning states to appeal for reassignment and ensure that service members with needing an abortion will be able to cross state lines.
Currently, the military allows service members to take travel leave to receive “covered abortions” if they are not available at their base – or to use personal leave at their own expense to have abortions at all other case.
“Access to emergency or convalescent leave remains unchanged for all Service members,” Cisneros wrote in his memo. “DOD civilian employees may continue to request sick leave and other forms of leave as necessary to meet the health care needs of the employee and their family members. Sick leave may be used to cover necessary travel to obtain any type of medical treatment.”