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Opposing Extremist Abortion Policies in the Military

The defense bill that Kevin McCarthy and his fellow Republicans in the House of Representatives passed does not hurt America’s military. The Fresno Bee in its editorial last Thursday mischaracterized McCarthy as prioritizing extremist, anti-“woke” activism over the military’s greater good. In actuality, the GOP bill is a defensive measure to utilize the House’s power of the purse to resist new, highly unpopular actions from the Biden Department of Defense. 

We will focus our attention on those aspects of the bill that relate to abortion. The most noteworthy aspect in the McCarthy bill involves cutting off funding for a new military policy to offer additional leave, along with travel, lodging, and meals costs for service members to obtain out-of-state abortions. This applies to military members serving in states that have put abortion restrictions in place over the last year (e.g., Texas, Alabama, etc.). Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin enacted the measure after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022. 

This is an incredibly generous leave policy. For context, a soldier whose parent has died will not receive additional paid leave or coverage of travel or other such expenses, nor will soldiers seeking other kinds of elective procedures out-of-state.

The Bee’s editorial gave the specific example that Speaker McCarthy’s bill would prevent a female soldier from obtaining a medically necessary abortion. This example is specifically incorrect. Every state that has passed legal restrictions on abortion has provided exceptions for abortion when maternal life is at risk. 

Medical interventions like premature delivery due to cardiac emergencies or pre-eclampsia, ectopic pregnancy treatment, or a dilation and curettage procedure following miscarriage are legally and ethically distinct from the direct, procured abortion of a living human fetus or embryo. Austin’s policy is, as a result, likely exclusively going to pay for service members seeking abortions that are not medically necessary. 

Instead of focusing on abortion, the military should ensure for its service members adequate prenatal care, appropriate parental leave, and overall support for pregnant service members. Motherhood and pregnancy should not be viewed as obstacles incompatible with military service.

The issue touches on a broader point, about whether abortion is genuinely “healthcare.” Certainly the military is obliged to pay for basic healthcare coverage for its service members, but abortion is rightly distinct from basic healthcare. In the vast majority of cases, induced abortion is not chosen because of a health risk, but rather for non-medical, social motivations like finances, not wanting more children, or lack of partner support. 

Abortion is not correcting any adverse condition or treating any disease. Pregnancy is not an illness, but a natural, healthy bodily process. Abortion artificially ends that process, taking the life of a unique, living human being as a result.

Opposing taxpayer funding for abortion is not, as the Bee claims, an “extremist” view, but the majority view. 60% of Americans oppose federal funding of abortion.

The Bee ascribes McCarthy’s bill to the “extremist” demands of the hard-right fringe of GOP House members, whom McCarthy must allegedly placate to preserve his narrow hold on the Speakership. In actuality, the Republicans are simply pushing back on recent, aggressive, unpopular policy advances by the left. McCarthy is not the extremist here.