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Pentagon says Supreme Court's Roe ruling won't affect abortions on military facilities

The military will continue providing abortions in cases of rape or incest or when a mother’s life is at risk, a top Pentagon official said.
Image: U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin listens during a House Appropriations Subcommittee in Washington, D.C. on May 11, 2022.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing in Washington, D.C., on May 11. Brendan Smialowski / AFP via Getty Images

The Pentagon on Tuesday said that last week's Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade won't impact service members, spouses and dependents who use military treatment facilities.

The memo, sent by Gil Cisneros, the under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness, came in response to Friday's Supreme Court ruling that overturned the 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade that had guaranteed abortion rights under the Constitution.

Cisneros said that facilities on military bases are federal facilities and they won't change how they operate. The military will continue providing abortions in cases of rape, incest or when the mother’s life is at risk. Federal law prohibits the Pentagon from performing or paying for other types of abortions, the memo states.

States “may not impose criminal or civil liability on federal employees who perform their duties in a manner authorized by federal law,” and the Defense Department will ensure access to counsel for civilians and service members if needed, the memo said. Service members will still be granted leave to travel to receive an abortion, and in some cases, the U.S. government will pay for the travel.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin issued a statement shortly after the Supreme Court released its decision, saying that the Defense Department was looking into its policies to ensure the continuity of reproductive health care.

"I am committed to taking care of our people and ensuring the readiness and resilience of our force," he said Friday. "The department is examining this decision closely and evaluating our policies to ensure we continue to provide seamless access to reproductive health care as permitted by federal law."