Biden’s big bet on military abortions falls flat

(The Daily Signal) – Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022, President Joe Biden has made it a top priority to use any and all administrative actions to promote and pay for…

(The Daily Signal) – Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022, President Joe Biden has made it a top priority to use any and all administrative actions to promote and pay for abortions with taxpayer money.

No single related action garnered more attention than Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin‘s announcement that the Defense Department would use taxpayer funds to pay for abortion travel. Now, a new Pentagon report finds that the Biden administration’s abortion travel policy for service members and dependents was used only 12 times from June through December.

Defense Department officials admit, however, that they didn’t begin tracking travel under the year-old policy until August and weren’t able to gather any data from March through May.

Pentagon officials also explain that it’s not clear whether any of the 12 trips actually involved abortion, since the policy also may be used for other fertility-related health services.

And the reporting tracks only how many trips were taken from military installations to out-of-state destinations, not how many persons used the policy.

Some more background is useful. The public battle began in February 2023, when the Pentagon formerly announced it would begin granting additional paid leave and full coverage of flights, hotels, and meals for service members and their dependents to travel out of state for elective abortion.

Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., saw this policy for what it is, a violation of a longstanding statute that prohibits the Pentagon from paying for elective abortions. Tuberville decided to hold all nominations for military promotion until the Pentagon revokes the policy.

However, the monthslong standoff between Tuberville and the Biden administration quietly faded out of the public discourse after several Senate Republicans threatened to join forces with Democrats to change Senate rules and bypass Tuberville’s holds.

The move forced Tuberville’s hand and, in December, he decided to lift all remaining holds on military promotions. 

Now the Pentagon has released its initial reporting on use of the policy over the past year.

The 12 reported instances in which service members or dependents were granted additional paid leave to travel out of state for “reproductive health services” cost the taxpayers $44,791.

That may not seem like a lot in the grand scheme of federal funding, but this averages about $3,700 for each of the 12 trips. The cost of an abortion generally is between $500 and $600, so those who used the policy not only received additional paid leave not awarded to other service members but also got an extra $3,000 to pay for airfare, lodging, and meals.

In short, what the Pentagon’s report proves is that the Biden administration was willing to jeopardize hundreds of military promotions and inconvenience those families over an abortion travel policy used 12 times.

By the Pentagon’s own admission, these 12 round-trip flights could have been used by only one or two families. Officials say they don’t even know if the trips were related to abortion.

Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, saw this policy as the political stunt that it is.

On Wednesday, Wicker sent his fourth letter in 12 months to Austin, seeking information from the defense secretary that justifies the Defense Department’s abortion travel policy. So far, the Pentagon has provided no proper justification that the policy is needed for military readiness.

Wicker’s fellow Senate Republican, Tuberville, had given the Biden administration a choice: Double down on the need for this policy of taxpayer-funded travel for abortion, and Tuberville’s holds on hundreds of nominees for promotion would remain. Or follow the law, which prohibits the Pentagon from using taxpayer funds to pay for elective abortions, and the military promotions could move forward.

Austin’s answer was to stand unequivocally by the abortion travel policy, claiming it’s necessary to maintain the military readiness of 80,000 female service members stationed in states that restrict abortion.

If it so chooses, the Biden administration could stop paying for travel for abortion-specific reasons while maintaining additional leave benefits for fertility-related services such as in vitro fertilization. The Pentagon’s policy then would be in alignment with current law.

However, the administration has decided to maintain a public posture demonstrating that government officials will go to any lengths, even violating the law, to pay for abortion—even if those who may benefit from the policy opt not to use it.

The Pentagon’s report on the abortion travel policy, along with Tuberville’s heroic holds on promotions, allows all Americans to see the true priority for the Defense Department under Joe Biden: Military readiness and fidelity to the law will take a back seat to pro-abortion extremism at any cost.