House passes defense bill with amendment about abortion travel

The House of Representatives narrowly approved its annual defense authorization package with an amendment blocking the Pentagon’s post-Dobbs policy of reimbursing servicemembers for costs associated with traveling for abortions.

According to CNN, that amendment passed Thursday evening along with one eliminating diversity, equity, and inclusion programs and staff. Both amendments passed with slim margins. The abortion amendment received a mostly party line vote of 221-213, USA Today reported.

The abortion measure will likely face opposition as it must get the signature of a president whose administration implemented the controversial reimbursements. Meanwhile, the Democrat-controlled Senate will reportedly vote on its own version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). 

On Feb. 16, the Defense Department issued its policy providing 21 days of paid leave for individuals and dependents of those who receive non-covered abortions. “Covered abortions” are those the military funds and include situations where the life of the mother is considered to be in danger or involving a pregnancy that resulted from rape or incest (The Hyde Amendment prevents taxpayer funding for other abortions). The military’s policy also opened the possibility of travel and transportation allowances while clarifying that “[t]he non-covered reproductive health care is at the Service member’s expense.”

It’s unclear how many abortions would result but the Rand Corporation said one of its surveys indicated “as many as 4,100 active-duty U.S. service women seek abortion care each year.” 

As Live Action News previously reported, the issue has prompted controversy in the Senate where Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) has been blocking Defense nominees in response to the Pentagon’s policy. 

In May, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) released a letter in which former defense secretaries criticized Tuberville’s decision to halt confirmations. 

Austin similarly sent a letter on May 5 to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), whom he said had requested information on the impact of Tuberville’s actions. He warned that Tuberville was setting a “perilous precedent” and noted that the stalled confirmations were for positions that “oversee more than 1.2 million active and reserve component Service members and provide Service personnel and resources to the commanders of the unified combatant commands.”

READ: Senator threatens to block Defense confirmations if Pentagon subsidizes more abortions

Tuberville has reportedly said that he’s willing to release the nominees if the Senate allows a floor vote on a measure that would prohibit the military from assisting with servicemembers’ abortions.

Tuberville found support, however, in a letter from hundreds of veterans and an organization representing more than 2,500 military chaplains. “There is no truth more profound than the fact that all human life is sacred,” reads the letter published by the Daily Signal in May. 

It continues:

The mission of the United States Military is to defend and protect all American lives – not subsidize the practice of destroying innocent and vulnerable American children via abortion with taxpayer dollars. By pledging to hold these nominations to the Department of Defense until administration officials reverse course, Senator Tuberville is doing a great service for the American people – including its service members.

More recently, Fox News reported on a letter in which leading pro-life organizations accused the Biden administration of politicizing the defense appropriations process. 

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