A group of left-wing senators is urging U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to ensure that service members can travel to get abortions if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.
A leaked draft opinion for a pending case shows that the high court could strike down the landmark abortion-related ruling — but the draft is not an official decision, and the court's official opinion later this year could differ from the draft.
"The Constitution does not prohibit the citizens of each State from regulating or prohibiting abortion. Roe and Casey arrogated that authority. We now overrule those decisions and return that authority to the people and their elected representatives," the draft opinion reads.
Such a ruling would give states the authority to ban abortions, and some states have trigger laws that would ban most abortions if the high court issued such an opinion.
Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), and Angus King (I-Maine) joined together in a letter warning that service members could find themselves stationed in states where abortion is no longer available. The lawmakers called upon Austin to take steps so that service members in that situation could travel to obtain an abortion.
"If the opinion goes into effect, hundreds of thousands of troops, dependents, and DOD civilians will lose access to safe abortions and potentially face criminal prosecution for exercising a fundamental human right—creating a scenario where servicemembers' reproductive and healthcare rights would become dependent on their duty station," the lawmakers said in the letter.
"As the leader of our military services, it falls upon you to preserve the health and welfare of our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Guardians. With our country facing the likely rollback of personal rights, what are you and your staff doing in preparation to protect the health and welfare of those under your command? What steps will you take to assist servicemembers in need of an abortion? At a minimum, you and your staff should consider implementing policy changes to allow servicemembers to obtain, for example, special liberty or permissive temporary additional duty permissions in order to travel out of state for reproductive health care and abortions if they are stationed in a jurisdiction that curtails these rights after the Dobbs decision is issued," the senators said in the letter.