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

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

The Department of Defense said in a memo that it would continue to offer abortions in cases where the mother’s life is in danger or the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, cases known as “covered abortions”.

Federal law prohibits the Pentagon from performing or paying for other types of procedures, 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 under federal law. There will be no interruption of this care, he said.

The memo follows Friday’s Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, who since 1973 had guaranteed a woman’s constitutional right to abortion. The decision is expected to affect tens of thousands of service members and their families who may be stationed or working in states where abortions will soon be banned or severely restricted.

The memo notes that the court’s decision “will have significant implications for our service members, dependents, other recipients of DoD health services and civilian employees, as well as for the readiness of strength”.

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

Additionally, the military will work with the Department of Justice to ensure access to legal counsel for civilian and military employees if needed.

The Supreme Court’s decision also does not affect the Pentagon’s existing leave policies, and service members will still be allowed to travel for abortions, which can be paid for by the US government.

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

The memo also echoes Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s statement last week 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 weighed against various state laws, as well as the views of the Department of Justice,” the memo said. “We are reviewing our current policies and procedures and…will issue additional guidance as appropriate.”

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