Army officials are drafting a policy “to ensure we take care of our soldiers” seeking abortions, in case the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, according to the sergeant major of the Army.
Various officials, including the office of the assistant secretary of the Army, personnel officials and the sergeant major’s office are working in collaboration on the drafts, said Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston. He testified Thursday before the House Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on military construction, veterans affairs and related agencies.
“Those policies have not gone to the Secretary of the Army.... there are drafts if it were to be overturned, but that will be a decision for the secretary of the Army to sign a policy,” Grinston said.
An initial draft of a Supreme Court opinion, leaked earlier this month, appears to indicate the Supreme Court is likely to overturn the landmark case.
“If that opinion goes unchanged, in its final form there will be massive ramifications for women, including those in the armed services,” said Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., chairwoman of the subcommittee.
“For those female soldiers in states with restrictive abortion laws, their options for safe abortions may be completely erased if Roe v. Wade is overturned,” she said, as she pressed Grinston for answers. “It’s good to know you are preparing in anticipation of that possibility.”
“Women in the military already have a higher rate of unintended pregnancies than civilian women. Currently the Defense Health Agency has the limited authority to only provide abortions in the cases of rape, incest or danger to a woman’s life,” Wasserman Schultz said.
Advocates have long expressed concern that military women have very limited options in states with more restrictive abortion laws, because they may not have the means to travel to another state to get an abortion.
These restrictions could put abortions out of reach for some military women, advocates contend.
Rep. David Trone, D-Md., said he was “extremely pleased” to see that the Army’s new directive about parenthood eliminates the requirement for unit commanders to pre-approve a service member’s leave to seek an abortion.
Grinston said Army officials are also looking at drafting a policy regarding support of LGBTQ soldiers. Wasserman Schultz cited the recent Air Force policy to provide assignment, medical, legal and other resources to support their airmen and Guardians if they’re serving in states with discriminatory laws.
“It’s important we’re making sure we’re taking care of our service members, and protecting them from discrimination,” Wasserman Schultz said.
Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.