Eight senators are asking Pentagon officials to guarantee that members of the military seeking an abortion would be able to access the procedure, regardless of the regulations of the states where they are stationed, according to The Hill.
Led by New York Democrat Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, the lawmakers are urging the Department of Defense (DOD) to move quickly in the wake of last week’s leaked Supreme Court draft opinion that revealed the court is likely to overturn the 1973 case Roe v. Wade, which established a federal right to abortion.
In a letter on Thursday, the group of seven Democrats and Independent Sen. Angus King, of Maine, entreats Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to protect servicemembers’ “fundamental human right.”
“If the opinion goes into effect, hundreds of thousands of troops, dependents, and DOD civilians will lose access to safe abortions and potentially face criminal prosecution for exercising a fundamental human right — creating a scenario where servicemembers’ reproductive and healthcare rights would become dependent on their duty station,” the senators’ letter read.
The senators also ask Austin to consider making policy changes that would allow military members to obtain special permission to travel for abortion services if they are based in a state that does not allow the procedure.
“The men and women who join the military sacrifice an incredible amount in order to serve their country. We owe it to these servicemembers to look after them and ensure they have the ability to continue accessing safe reproductive healthcare no matter where in the nation their military service sends them.”
Democrats’ attempt to codify Roe v. Wade in the wake of the leaked Supreme Court document failed on Wednesday when Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., joined Republicans in blocking the legislation.
A decision in the Supreme Court abortion case the draft opinion centers on is expected within the next two months. It is widely expected that the court will vote to overturn Roe, sending the question of abortion back to the individual states to decide.
The Pentagon has said little about how it would handle service members seeking abortion if the decision is overturned.
Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said last week that he would “rather not get into an abortion-centric discussion,” when asked about a possible ban on the procedure, but that “the health and well-being of our men and women are paramount concerns of department leadership.”
“We certainly want to make sure that whoever they are and wherever they are that they know that we’re serious about that pledge and that we are serious about making sure they have the information, the tools that they need to make the most informed decisions for their own personal health and well-being,” Kirby added.
Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., also signed the letter, as well as Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., and Gary Peters, D-Mich.
Duckworth is a retired Army National Guard lieutenant colonel and Peters served in the Navy Reserves, according to The Hill.
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