The U.S. Coast Guard informed its members that the military service will give administrative absence and convalescent leave from duty stations for abortions, including travel allowances.
A March 1 ALCOAST bulletin obtained by CatholicVote states that service members may be granted an administrative absence of up to 21 days from their duty station “to receive, or to accompany a dual-military spouse or a dependent who receives, non-covered reproductive health care without loss of pay or earned leave.”
The Coast Guard information gateway defines “non-covered reproductive healthcare” as including medical and surgical abortions as well as assisted reproductive technologies (ART) such as egg retrieval, sperm collection, and in-vitro fertilization “processing.”
TRICARE, the health program for active duty and reserve Coast Guard members, retirees, and their families, already covered abortion in the cases of rape, incest, and “where the life of the mother would be endangered if the fetus were carried to term.”
Military Structure Loophole?
By federal statute, the Department of Defense is barred from providing coverage for abortion care except when a pregnant woman’s life is endangered. The ban provides no exception for cases of rape and incest.
The Coast Guard is not under the Department of Defense and occupies a unique place in the U.S. military hierarchy. In 2003, President George W. Bush transferred it to the Department of Homeland Security, and the service now reports directly to Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas.
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“Basically, Homeland Security sees the Coast Guard as a ‘loophole case,’ touting its special status as an excuse to fund abortion tourism,” said CatholicVote Director of Government Affairs Tom McClusky.
This is the Biden administration manipulating federal laws in their efforts to disregard state laws after the Dobbs decision. It’s a slippery slope writ large, and I hope Congress will address it.
Travel Expenses Covered
The Coast Guard’s updated policies provide administrative absence, convalescent leave, as well as travel expenses for any abortion for any reason. This absence, the bulletin notes, “should be granted” regardless of whether the abortion is procured locally or entails travel to another state.
Should a mother elect to travel to an abortion-permissive state, however, the Coast Guard now offers to cover the travel expenses.
The announcement does not provide criteria or details on how service members or their families can obtain this allowance, but promises answers in “future messaging.”
In October 2022, the Department of Defense (DOD) released a memo to senior Pentagon leadership titled “Ensuring Access to Reproductive Health Care.” The memo, signed by Secretary of Defense Lloyd James Austin III, directed the Department to provide funding for service members wishing to travel for an abortion.
An Abortion-Minded Culture?
Data on current pregnancy and abortion rates among service members and their families is limited. In 2022, the pro-abortion RAND Corporation issued “The Women’s Reproductive Health Survey (WRHS) of Active-Duty Service Members,” which included the Coast Guard in its study. Researchers reported that “somewhere between 2,600 and 4,100 service women” seek abortions annually.
One of the researchers, Kyleanne Hunter, suggested in an interview that women in the military might feel particularly pressured to seek abortions given the tasks required of them at work: “Service members—particularly junior service members—often can’t perform their job duties while pregnant, especially if they’re in a job that’s very physically demanding like working in an aircraft or on a ship.”
A 2017 brief by the pro-abortion Ibis Reproductive Health estimated that there were approximately 13,860 “unintended pregnancies” among active-duty service women that year based on 2011 data.
Between 2016 and 2022, fewer than 100 abortions were performed in U.S. military hospitals in cases of rape, incest, or because a mother’s life was deemed “at risk.”
Ninety-seven percent of women on active duty are of child-bearing age, and women currently comprise 20% of U.S. military personnel.
LifeNews Note: Erika Ahern writes for CatholicVote, where this column originally appeared.