EXCLUSIVE: GOP Senator Presses Defense Secretary On Missing Evidence Behind Abortion Claims

  • Post category:News / US News

  • Republican Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi says the Department of Defense (DOD) has not provided evidence backing up its claim that abortion restrictions damage military readiness in a letter obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation.
  • On Oct. 24, DOD noted a lack of studies on service members’ experiences with family planning in a survey proposal.
  • “If the Administration were actually committed to maintaining an apolitical military, a study such as this should have been undertaken months before you promulgated this divisive and inflammatory policy,” Wicker said in the letter.

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A GOP senator questioned the Department of Defense (DOD)’s missing justification for its controversial abortion travel policy after the Pentagon said it still needed to assess the impact of abortion restrictions on the military, in a letter exclusively obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Republicans have opposed Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s measures to counteract state abortion restrictions implemented since the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Supreme Court decision in June of 2022, including by paying travel expenses for women seeking abortions. The Pentagon argued abortion restrictions would harm military readiness and lethality, but Republican Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi hammered Austin again for failing to provide data backing up that claim in a letter dated Oct. 27.

“In other words, over a year after you stated unequivocally that the Dobbs ruling has ‘readiness, recruiting, and retention implications for the Force’ the Department of Defense is still searching for evidence to support this baseless claim,” Wicker, who serves as ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, wrote in the letter.

On Oct. 24, DOD solicited public comments on a proposed study of service members to ascertain their family planning needs and response to DOD’s so-called “reproductive health” policies, according to a posting in the Federal Register.

“There is little existing research on service members’ experiences with family planning,” the survey justification states.

“This study will highlight areas related to family planning that may threaten the DoD’s ability to field a ready and lethal force,” it said.

“It will also point to areas where DoD may need to augment or develop care, programs, services, or policies that provide needed reproductive health care and family planning services to the force in order to maintain and enhance health, readiness, retention, and lethality,” it continued.

The Dobbs decision handed authority to make abortion laws to the states, finding that the Constitution never implied abortion as a right. A preexisting law called the Hyde Amendment bans federal funding for abortions in all but rare cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is at risk.

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In February, Austin issued three policies in February authorizing additional time off devoting federal funds to service members who must travel out of more restrictive abortion states receive elective abortions. He also set a timeline for service members to notify their superiors of pregnancy.

Austin had expressed concern about military “readiness and resilience” in the wake of the Supreme Court decision in a statement.

But, in March the Pentagon’s former head of personnel issues, said he did not know how many women have left the military or refused changes of station over state abortion laws. Gil Cisneros referenced “listening sessions” with servicemembers as well as a 2022 RAND Corporation analysis.

The Pentagon’s plans to study service members’ response to the surveys and acknowledgment that little previous research has been done on the issue “completely undermines” arguments made by Austin and other senior defense officials about the abortion travel policy’s importance, Wicker said in the letter.

Republicans have opposed the policies, with some arguing they are tantamount to taxpayer-funded elective abortions.

“If the Administration were actually committed to maintaining an apolitical military, a study such as this should have been undertaken months before you promulgated this divisive and inflammatory policy,” Wicker said in the letter.

A report on the travel policy’s cost and the number of service members who take advantage of it will be submitted in January 2024, Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said in an emailed statement in August.

Twenty eight states have banned or restricted abortion, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Wicker’s letter follows similar unanswered requests he made to the Pentagon for data on the policy sent in March in September.

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All content created by the Daily Caller News Foundation, an independent and nonpartisan newswire service, is available without charge to any legitimate news publisher that can provide a large audience. All republished articles must include our logo, our reporter’s byline and their DCNF affiliation. For any questions about our guidelines or partnering with us, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

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