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A new forever war: the Pentagon’s post-Roe abortion stance ignites political, legal fights

  • June 13, 2023

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 the looming challenges to the policy will break the 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 US family planning funding. The Biden administration has accepted 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 reimbursement and other aid to female troops who, because of state laws, must seek legal abortions elsewhere. Supporters note that many large US bases are in the South and other conservative parts of the country where state legislatures have rushed to impose or reinstate abortion curbs.


SEE ALSO: Supreme Court leaves abortion pill access alone while case goes through courts


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 forces. The department is examining this decision closely

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US sues Idaho over abortion law, cites medical treatment

  • August 6, 2022

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The Justice Department on Tuesday filed a lawsuit that challenges Idaho’s restrictive abortion law, arguing that it conflicts with a federal law requiring doctors to provide pregnant women medically necessary treatment that could include abortion.

The federal government brought the lawsuit seeking to invalidate the state’s “criminal prohibition on providing abortions as applied to women suffering medical emergencies,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said.

The announcement is the first major action by the Justice Department challenging a state trigger law since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June. The court’s decision has led some states to enact restrictive abortion laws and is likely to lead to abortion bans in roughly half the states in the US

The Justice Department brought the suit because federal prosecutors believe Idaho’s law would force doctors to violate the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, a federal law that requires anyone coming to a medical facility for emergency treatment to be stabilized and treated, Garland said.

“Idaho’s law would make it a criminal offense for doctors to provide the emergency medical treatment that federal law requires,” Garland said.

Idaho, like many Republican-led states, has several anti-abortion laws on the books, creating a legal quagmire now that the US Supreme Court has overturned the landmark abortion rights case Roe v. Wade.

The law targeted by the Justice Department criminalizes all abortions, subjecting anyone who performs or attempts to perform an abortion to a felony punishable by between two and five years in prison.

People who are charged under the law could defend themselves against the criminal allegations by arguing that the abortion was done to save a pregnant person from death, or that it was done after the pregnant person reported that they were a victim of rape or incest to

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