Senate Republicans push to end Pentagon’s policy of funding abortion travel
A majority of Senate Republicans are supporting legislation that would prohibit the Pentagon from reimbursing service members for traveling across state lines to receive abortions.
Legislation introduced this week by Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, is already cosponsored by 35 other GOP senators, a sign that support is growing among Republicans to end the controversial Defense Department policy that takes effect this week.
The policy is a response to the Supreme Court’s decision last year to reverse Roe v. Wade, which gave states the authority to regulate abortion. Since that ruling, the Biden administration and congressional Democrats have pursued policies aimed at making it easier for women in states with strict abortion laws to travel to other states with more permissive laws.
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The Pentagon’s policy was a step in this direction, as it proposed to give service members time off and reimburse them for travel-related expenses if they sought abortions in other states. But Ernst said this week that the Defense Department has no legal authority to support abortions in this way.
“The Pentagon should not be mobilized against the unborn. The Department of Defense exists to defend life, not destroy it,” Ernst said in a statement. “Biden DoD’s policy is not just unlawful, it’s immoral.”
Ernst added that the Hyde Amendment – language Congress has supported for decades that bans the use of federal funds for abortions – should also prohibit the Pentagon’s policy decision. “I will continue to ensure the unborn and your tax dollars are protected,” she said.
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The legislation follows the introduction of a House bill this month from Texas GOP Reps. Ronny Jackson and Chip Roy, which now has 43 Republican cosponsors.
Ernst’s bill says it’s the sense of Congress that the Defense Department “may not use any funds for abortions except in a case in which the life of the mother would be endangered if the fetus were carried to term or in which the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest.”
It finds that the Defense Department has “no legal authority” to implement its memo, which is in “direct conflict” with federal law and the intent of Congress.
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The bill terminates the Pentagon memo and creates a new piece of federal law that explicitly prohibits the Defense Department from providing transportation, lodging, meals or any other travel-related expenses for service members “seeking an abortion or any abortion related service,” except for cases involving rape, incest or the life of the mother.
It also clarifies abortion-related travel cannot be justified as an “unusual, extraordinary, hardship or emergency circumstance” that warrants approved travel for a service member.
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Ernst’s bill is cosponsored by Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and most other GOP members of that committee.