A new bill that would mandate the military to grant a leave of absence for service members to get abortions, including military compensation to cover out-of-state travel, has been submitted by a group of House Democrats.
The “Access to Reproductive Care for Service Members Act” was introduced in response to abortion requests made by service members in states with stricter abortion regulations after the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision in June.
U.S. representative Jackie Speier (D-CA), chair of the U.S. House Armed Services Personnel Committee, said in a statement on Tuesday that access to abortion care “should be a right, not just a privilege.”
Although they have little control over it, a recent study indicated that 40% of service personnel would have no or very limited access to abortion services where they’re stationed. The consequences of not receiving care will be devastating, and our military’s readiness, recruiting, morale, and unit cohesion are all at risk.
The new regulation aims to improve the way the military handles abortions in a number of different ways. First, it would redefine abortion as a time-sensitive issue, necessitating an automatic commanding officer leave approval. Additionally, the act would permit military members to request and receive leave for abortion-related medical needs without disclosing the specifics of the procedure to a commander.
The bill would force the Department of Defense to pay travel costs in circumstances where abortion is not permitted in the state where the service member is stationed, just like other “essential” healthcare travel.
The new law would also forbid commanding officers or other military members from taking adverse action against a service member who had an abortion.
The bill’s co-sponsor, Rep. Jason Crow (D-CO), asserted that abortion is a matter of military readiness.
“A woman’s decision to get an abortion should be left up to her doctor, particularly in the case of our service members. It is important for troop readiness and moral reasons to guarantee our troops have access to safe and dependable abortion treatment,” according to Crow.
“I served alongside talented and courageous servicewomen during my time in the Army. Our military is the best combat force in the world thanks in large part to their service,” he continued.
According to the Democratic lawmakers, the estimated cost of travel for military people seeking abortions outside of their states is $1,100 or more, or close to half of a junior enlisted service member’s monthly pay. “The least we can do,” according to Speier, is pay the costs associated with the abortion.