Pentagon’s reproductive healthcare policy used 12 times from June to December

The Pentagon’s policy that allows service members to be reimbursed for travel when seeking reproductive care out of state was used 12 times during Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s hold of military promotions in protest of the policy.

The department spent a total of $44,791.20 on transportation and lodging expenses for service members seeking reproductive healthcare services such as abortion, in vitro fertilization services and egg retrieval.

“This could entail a service member traveling from their home station in one state or overseas location to a state where they can access non-covered reproductive healthcare services, and then returning home to that home station,” Pentagon spokesperson Sabrina Singh told reporters during a press briefing Tuesday.

The department doesn’t collect data on the types of healthcare services that troops travel to receive. A service member or their family member can use the travel policy more than once to receive reproductive care that the department doesn’t pay for or that is not available in their state.

“These policies ensure that service members and their families are afforded the time and flexibility to make private healthcare decisions, as well as supporting access to non-covered reproductive healthcare, regardless of where they are stationed,” said Singh.

The Pentagon introduced the travel policy in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, as some of the largest military installations are located in states with restrictive access to reproductive health care services.

In February 2023, the Pentagon announced that the travel policy would take effect the following month. Around the same time, Mon. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) put a hold on hundreds of military nominations that lasted for nearly a year.

Tuberville insisted that the Pentagon’s travel policy would result in thousands of service members leaving their state to seek abortion. He repeatedly said the travel policy would increase a number of abortions by as much as 4,100 per year. The number referenced came from a 2022 Rand Corp. report that estimates a number of active-duty service women seeking abortion annually. Authors of the report said that few women would likely use the Pentagon’s travel policy to seek reproductive care.

He also insisted that the blanket hold of military promotions would strictly impact the top military leaders. Defense officials, lawmakers and military organizations, however, tell a different story.

The Government Accountability Office is now conducting a comprehensive review of short- and long-term effects of the senator’s 10-month hold on military readiness, national security and military families.

“We’ve normalized chaos within the military family, and that just contributes to dissatisfaction by serving in uniform. When you don’t fund the government, when you use the military as political pawns, that has an adverse impact on our national security, and it will ultimately cause military families to rethink whether or not they continue in their service and whether or not they will recommend service to their family and friends,” Tom Porter, the vice president of government affairs at Blue Star Families, told Federal News Network.

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