Abortion ruling will deepen military recruiting crisis, Pentagon says
“We are concerned that some service members will choose to leave the military altogether because they may be stationed in states with restrictive reproductive health laws,” Pentagon personnel and readiness chief Gil Cisneros said in a statement. prepared remarks.
“That brings us to our concerns about recruitment,” he said, as the Defense Ministry faces dire shortages to recruit new troops and women already make up a much smaller portion of the workforce. strength than men. “We know this decision will have some impact.”
Graphic: Abortion is now illegal in these states. See where the laws have changed.
Last month’s Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe vs. WadeDecades-old protections have fundamentally changed the abortion landscape across the country. About a dozen states now have new restrictions on the procedure, and more are looming, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.
There are more than 100 military installations in Southern and Midwestern states with outright abortion bans, said Rep. Jackie Speier (D-California), who called the rapid development “an incentive for women not to be used” and “almost insidious”. effort to encourage women to leave the military.
In July, the Air Force clarified its rules allowing Airmen to have abortions without requiring prior approval from their commanders for the required rest time. The army adopted a similar measure this spring.
House Democrats have attempted to make these policies universal across all armed forces by including a provision in the Department of Defense Funding and Authorization Bill for next year. The proposal faces an uncertain fate in the Senate, which recently began working on its version of the legislation.
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But so far, these policies do not specifically address the cultural tendencies inherent in the institution, where men vastly outnumber women and the political consensus has always been conservative. Women in uniform, who make up about 20% of the 1.3 million active force members, said reproductive care is stigmatized, with some leaders viewing necessary time off and related aftercare as an unwanted distraction.
The policies provide no punitive measures for commanders who might try to make it unduly difficult for subordinates to have an abortion by refusing permission or rejecting requests to travel to a civilian provider hundreds of miles away. Reparations should be sought over the heads of senior leaders, defense officials said, presenting additional challenges.
The Army, which is the largest service branch, intends to implement “parenting, pregnancy and postpartum training” in pre-command courses for its leaders, Lt. Col. Joey said. Payton, a spokesperson.
It remains to be seen whether a Republican administration would prioritize such educational initiatives for military commanders. Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), the only GOP participant in the courtroom Friday, dismissed an idea raised during testimony that service members could choose their service assignments based on state laws. ‘State. Such a notion, he said, risked politicizing the ranks.
Gallagher didn’t ask Cisneros any questions.
Federal law prohibits military health facilities from performing abortions unless the life of the pregnant person is in danger or the pregnancy was caused by rape or incest. Each year, this happens in fewer than two dozen cases on average, according to Department of Defense data. It is unclear how many military personnel seek such treatment in private. Those who do must pay their expenses out of pocket, Cisneros said. For many, this may require traveling hundreds of miles and taking several days off.
Air Force Maj. Theresa A. Mozzillo told lawmakers on Friday that a pregnancy early in her career was an immediate cause for panic. “I was an airwoman in a male-dominated environment,” she said, “and the idea of discussing this personal information with my leaders was out of the question. … My dream of a successful military career s was collapsing before I even had a chance to start.
Mozzillo said she had no social support network and little savings. Her assignment in Missouri, one of the most restrictive states on abortion rights, required her to travel to the Illinois border for the procedure. A friend drove her on a Saturday to avoid having to seek formal approval from a commander, and she returned to work that Monday, she said.
Air Force Maj. Sharon Arana told lawmakers that her birth control failed during her officer training in Alabama. Already a single mother, Arana and her boyfriend decided to have an abortion. They traveled to Georgia, which required a three-day process for the procedure. Fearing the repercussions of her missing job, Arana said she returned to complete her training and then sought an abortion in New York during her scheduled leave.
She sought postabortion care at her duty station in Texas, where a nurse vowed not to record the visit to keep her out of trouble, she said. “I was never offered any support or follow-up care at the clinic,” Arana said. “Instead, I was sent back on my way home… without my pregnancy termination ever being documented in my medical records.”
Jacqueline Lamme, a Navy gynecologist and obstetrician, told lawmakers that making it harder for troops to plan for their families, including forcing unplanned pregnancies to term, can be corrosive to military missions.
An unplanned pregnancy can remove a service member from their unit for up to two years, she said in written remarks, hurting chances for promotion or valuable career advancement assignments.
“Unplanned pregnancies can occur,” Lamme said, “and the lack of comprehensive contraceptive options has negative effects on both the duty woman and overall force readiness.”
The Pentagon has spearheaded the creation of walk-in clinics with free contraceptive services, and defense health officials will remove co-payments for those services, Cisneros said. But major concerns remain.
“Just as some women would not accept civilian employment in a state that severely restricts their options for reproductive health care, some potential recruits may also feel deterred from joining the military for fear of being stationed. at the grassroots in such states,” Cisneros said, noting that staff retention is equally concerning. Necessary moves to jurisdictions without access to reproductive health care could deter women from remaining in the military “because of the risks it may pose to their privacy and their health care choices,” it said. -he declares.
The Pentagon is currently experiencing significant recruiting problems, officials said, fearing that an increase in unplanned departures could only exacerbate the problem. The military, in particular, faces its biggest shortfall since the Vietnam era, as leaders grapple with low unemployment and a dwindling percentage of Americans qualified to serve.