Senate Republicans push to end Pentagon policy to fund abortion travel
A majority of Senate Republicans support legislation that would ban the Pentagon from reimbursing service members for crossing state lines to obtain abortions.
Legislation introduced this week by Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, is already co-sponsored by 35 other GOP senators, a sign that support is growing among Republicans for ending the controversial Department of Defense policy that takes effect this week.
The policy is a response to the Supreme Court’s decision last year to overturn Roe v. Wade, which gave states the power to regulate abortion. Since that decision, 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 policy was a step in that direction, as it offered to give service members time off and reimburse travel expenses if they sought abortions in other states. But Ernst said this week that the Department of Defense has no legal authority to support abortions in this way.
“The Pentagon should not be mobilized against unborn children. The Department of Defense exists to defend life, not destroy it,” Ernst said in a statement. “Biden DoD’s policy is not only illegal, it is immoral.”
Ernst added that the Hyde Amendment — the language Congress has supported for decades that bans the use of federal funds for abortions — should also ban the Pentagon’s policy decision. “I will continue to ensure that unborn children and your taxes are protected,” she said.
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The legislation follows the introduction of a House bill this month by Texas GOP Reps. Ronny Jackson and Chip Roy, which now has 43 Republican co-sponsors.
Ernst’s bill says it is the feeling of Congress that the Department of Defense “may not use any funds for abortions except in the event that 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.”
He finds that the Department of Defense has “no legal authority” to implement his memo, which is “in direct conflict” with federal law and congressional intent.
PENTAGON WILL PROVIDE TRIP FOR SERVICE MEMBERS GETTING ABORTIONS, PLUS PAID HOLIDAYS
Bill ends Pentagon memo and creates new federal law that explicitly prohibits Department of Defense from providing transportation, lodging, meals or any other travel-related expenses for service members “requesting an abortion or any abortion-related service”, except for cases involving rape, incest or the life of the mother.
It also clarifies that abortion-related travel cannot be justified as an “unusual, extraordinary, difficult or emergency circumstance” that warrants approved travel for a service member.
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Ernst’s bill is co-sponsored by Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and most of the other GOP members on that committee.