The Department of Defense released plans Thursday to cover travel for service members seeking an abortion or to accompany a spouse who is seeking to terminate their pregnancy.
Troops will have up to 5 months, or 20 weeks, into their pregnancy to notify their departments and request travel for an abortion, according to guidance released by the Pentagon.
The memorandum states that “the DOD health care provider will place the Service member considering pregnancy termination in a medical temporary nondeployable status without reference to the Service member’s pregnancy status, until appropriate medical care and the necessary recovery period are complete.”
The memo also directs the military branches to grant administrative absence – which includes no loss of pay – for those seeking abortion or fertility treatments not covered by military health care providers.
The updated policy will take effect within 30 days.
Prior to the new policy, the DOD only covered abortions for pregnancies that were the result of rape, incest, or suggested a possible threat to the life of the mother, but the new regulation will open up more covered options to troops seeking to terminate their pregnancies.
The new policy aims “to facilitate official travel to access non-covered reproductive health care that is unavailable within the local area of a Service member’s permanent duty station,” a DOD memo states.
“Service members and families are required to travel and move to meet the needs of the nation. And while they certainly have a voice in the process of where they’re assigned, ultimately, decisions are made in the best interest of the department’s mission requirements,” a senior defense official, told Military Times on Thursday.
“And we strongly believe that these moves should not impact their access to essential health care. These policies that we’re releasing today will help ensure long-term that we’re able to recruit, retain and maintain the readiness of a highly qualified force,” he stated.