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Pentagon to Allow Members of the Service up to Three Weeks to Travel for Abortions

The Pentagon has announced that it will allow service members up to three weeks of administrative absence to travel for abortions.

On February 16, the Department of Defense released new policies on command notification of pregnancy, administrative absence for non-covered reproductive health care, and travel allowances for non-covered reproductive health care.

While the military will allow service members the time off, it will not cover the procedure itself.

The policy states that service members may also be granted an administrative absence to accompany a dual-military spouse or a dependent for an abortion.

In a memorandum about the new policy, Gilbert R. Cisneros, Jr., the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness in the Biden administration, said the new policy would be effective within 30 days.

“Secretary Austin has made clear that the health and well-being of our Service members and their family members is a top priority,” Cisneros wrote. “This policy provides Service members the time and flexibility to make private healthcare decisions in a manner that is consistent with the responsibility of commanders to meet operational requirements and protect the health and safety of those in their care. We remain committed to taking care of all our people and ensuring that the entire Force remains ready and resilient.”

Though they may take up to three weeks, the service members are required to travel and receive the procedure by the “most expeditious means” possible.

In October, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a memorandum that “the recent Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization has impacted access to reproductive health care with readiness, recruiting, and retention implications for the Force.”

“Since the Supreme Court’s decision, we have heard concerns from many of our Service members and their families about the complexity and the uncertainty that they now face in accessing reproductive health care, including abortion services,” Austin continued. “We also recognize that recent developments may create legal and financial risk for our health care providers as they carry out their lawful federal duties. I am committed to the Department taking all appropriate action, within its authority and consistent with applicable federal law, as soon as possible to ensure that our Service members and their families can access reproductive health care and our health care providers can operate effectively.”

Secretary Austin also directed the department to “Establish travel and transportation allowances for Service members and their dependents, as appropriate and consistent with applicable federal law and operational requirements, and as necessary amend any applicable travel regulations, to facilitate official travel to access noncovered reproductive health care that is unavailable within the local area of a Service member’s permanent duty station.”

The department will only reimburse travel expenses to the closest available clinic.

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