Some military personnel are concerned that the Supreme Court's ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade will curtail abortion access for service members and possibly put them at risk for arrest and prosecution, Military.com reported.
The Supreme Court on Friday overruled the controversial 1973 landmark ruling creating a constitutional right to an abortion, sending the issue back to the states to regulate.
That decision, in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, activated "trigger laws" in 13 states, all of which have military installations of various sizes.
"This decision makes military service, for many, harder than it already is," Rachel VanLandingham, a retired Air Force judge advocate general and professor at Southwestern Law School, told Military.com.
"Women in uniform now have to fear not just the enemy in combat; they have to fear where they will be stationed in the U.S., given that access to abortion is or will be quite soon not just severely limited, but criminalized in many states with a large military presence."
Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming are states in which abortion either has been banned or will be within 30 days of the state government affirming the Dobbs ruling.
Those 13 states are home to more than 240,000 service members, according to data from the Department of Defense.
Texas, home to almost 72,000 soldiers and more than 35,000 airmen and Space Force Guardians, has the most service members among those states.
Also, in at least 26 states, new abortion restrictions will make it more challenging for service members or military family members to get the procedure, Military.com reported.
Female service members and dependents of U.S. troops seeking an abortion have been required to get one through civilian clinics, usually at their own expense, Military.com reported. That's because military physicians and Department of Defense civilian providers have been prohibited by law from performing the procedure.
The military health program, Tricare, has covered the cost of an abortion only in cases where the life of the mother is at risk or the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest.
VanLandingham said that many service members and their families lack the financial means to travel out of state and often have little say in their choice of duty stations.
"I think there is going to be a reverberating effect. It's something that needs attention, and it needs care," she said.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Friday issued a statement following the Supreme Court's announcement.
"Nothing is more important to me or to this Department than the health and well-being of our Service members, the civilian workforce and DOD families," Austin said. "I am committed to taking care of our people and ensuring the readiness and resilience of our Force.
"The Department is examining this decision closely and evaluating our policies to ensure we continue to provide seamless access to reproductive health care as permitted by federal law."
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