It’s a new kind of forever war for the Pentagon as battles play out in the courtroom and at the ballot box, with deeply emotional implications for female troops and ripple effects throughout American society.
Far from providing certainty, the Defense Department’s decision to fund out-of-state travel for female service members to obtain abortions has instead raised high-stakes questions and could create the most personal of political footballs.
Analysts say looming challenges to the policy will break legal ground.
The more immediate fights could be in the political arena. Without affirmation from federal courts, the policies adopted by the Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs could easily be reversed by a future Republican president — and the next Democratic-led Defense Department could then undo that reversal.
Such back-and-forth would be reminiscent of the on-again, off-again Mexico City policy, which prohibits nongovernmental organizations from promoting abortions as a condition of receiving any U.S. family planning funding. The Biden administration has rescinded that policy. President Trump reinstated it in a series of partisan tit-for-tat moves since its inception under President Reagan.
The Justice Department says the Pentagon is on a solid legal footing to offer time off, travel reimbursements and other aid to female troops who, because of state laws, must seek legal abortions elsewhere. Supporters note that many large U.S. bases are in the South and other conservative parts of the country where state legislatures have rushed to impose or reinstate abortion curbs.
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Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin signaled his plans just days after the Supreme Court ruling in June. “I am committed to taking care of our people and ensuring the readiness and resilience of our force. The department is examining this decision closely and evaluating