TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — Ron DeSantis blasted the Department of Defense’s practice of reimbursing travel costs for service members to get an abortion – a move that bypasses restrictions in the state where they reside.
“When I’m president, on Day One, that policy goes into the trash can where it belongs,” DeSantis told a crowd of conservatives at the Iowa Faith and Freedom dinner on Saturday.
“IMMORAL AND ARGUABLY ILLEGAL”
Through the Hyde Amendment and other provisions, Congress already prohibits the federal government from paying for abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or where the mother’s life is in danger. But Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-Alabama) contends that paying for travel to an abortion provider violates the law’s intent.
Despite outrage from Democrats and Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Tuberville has blocked nearly 300 military officer promotions – including admirals and generals – until the Department of Defense ends the controversial policy.
“Secretary Austin’s abortion policy is immoral and arguably illegal,” Tuberville said in remarks on the Senate floor. “If he wants to change the law, he needs to go through Congress.”
When the policy was implemented earlier this year, the Department of Defense said they would offer service members and their families “time and flexibility to make private health care decisions,” including access to non-covered “reproductive health care” regardless of where they are stationed.
In a Congressional research report, military manpower specialist Kristy N. Kamarck states that the military health system serves about 1.62 million women of reproductive age (15-45), including servicemembers, retirees, and their dependents.
According to the report, unintended pregnancies are 50 percent higher for active-duty women than their civilian counterparts. As of July 31, 2022, about 46,000 active-duty women and 75,000 reserve component women were assigned to states with laws that ban or restrict abortion, the report states.
“Our recruiting is in the absolute gutter now, and you’re funding abortion tourism,” DeSantis said. “Is that really something that is helping to protect this country? So we need to fight back against it.”
The division in the Senate over the issue highlights the ongoing debate surrounding abortion rights and the role of the Department of Defense. Left-aligned VoteVets PAC called out Republicans for “lying” about the issue, noting that technically, the DoD does not fund abortion services. But most Republicans, including Tuberville, say it amounts to the same outcome and undermines pro-life laws in the states.