On Monday, July 17, National Security Council coordinator John Kirby defended the use of taxpayer money to pay for military travel expenses for members seeking abortions. He called these trips an important part of how the military cares for its families, then doubled down on his stance by claiming that enabling abortions is a “foundational sacred obligation” for the military.
Kirby’s impassioned defense on Monday was in response to a reporter’s question about the Pentagon’s policy and how abortions could be considered “critical to military care.” An irate Kirby pounded the podium with his fist, claiming, “Our policies, whether they’re diversity, inclusion, and equity or whether they’re about transgender individuals who qualify physically and mentally, deserve to be able to [serve] with dignity. Or whether it’s about female service members – one in five – or female family members being able to count on the kinds of health care and reproductive care specifically that they need to serve.”
He added, “That is a foundational, sacred obligation of military leaders across the river. I’ve seen it myself. And it matters because it says we’re invested in you because you are willing to invest in us. You’re investing your life, your family’s livelihood with us. We owe you that back in return.”
It all centers around Senator Tommy Tuberville’s (R-AL) blocking of military promotions due to the Pentagon’s use of taxpayer money to fund abortion expenses. According to Tuberville, new DoD policies would increase subsidized abortions by up to 4100 per year. However, a senior sociologist at the RAND Corporation, Sarah Meadows, took exception to Tuberville’s claim. She estimates the rate of DoD-subsidized abortion will “only” increase by 2,000 annually.
The left argues that restricting abortions for military members creates financial hardships for enlisted women and their families, who must privately fund their own abortions. Liberals also cite career barriers due to unwanted pregnancies and the possibility of limiting recruitment and retention for females in the military.
Conservatives oppose taxpayer funding of abortions as well as the military using funds to pay for the procedure and the transportation costs of traveling to receive it. They argue that taxpayer money should be used for defense priorities, not publicly funded abortions.
According to the Women’s Reproductive Health Survey, unintended pregnancies among active-duty women are nearly 50% higher than their civilian counterparts. In 2022, RAND estimated that four out of ten women in the military would be stationed in states that have limited or no, access to abortions.
Under TRICARE, the military’s healthcare system, abortion services are limited by federal statute. Abortion in DoD health facilities is prohibited outside of maternal health risks, incest, and rape.
Birth control is, however, fully covered under TRICARE. Many women do not choose the covered birth control services, however, stating that they felt “pressured” to use a birth control option that didn’t “align with personal preferences.”
In 2022, following the SCOTUS ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, the DoD was authorized to “lawfully expend funds to pay for service members and their dependents to travel to obtain abortions that the DoD itself cannot perform.” Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin further authorized that military travel and transportation funds be used to “facilitate official travel to access non-covered reproductive health care that is unavailable within the local area of a servicemember’s permanent duty station.”
Austin also authorized the development of a program to support healthcare providers in the DOD who face criminal or civil penalties when “appropriately performing their official duties.”
Female service members are complaining that state restrictions on abortion are influencing their willingness to “continue serving in uniform or to encourage, or discourage, their spouses from continuing service.”
He explained, “So if you don’t think there’s going to be a retention and a morale issue, think again, because it’s already having that effect.”
Kirby went on to add, “That means we lose talent, important talent, and we’re an all-volunteer force.”
But it’s estimated that two-thirds of military kids will follow in their parents’ footsteps and join the military, making the armed forces a “family business.”
In other words, Democrats, Kirby, and the DoD are killing the next generation of potential recruits before they are even born.