Defense Secretary Pledges Support For Female Service Members After ‘Roe’ Overturned

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U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin was among the government leaders who spoke out after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last week.

Austin pledged to work to protect the healthcare access of U.S. service members and other people connected to the Department of Defense. “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.” In other words, although the Supreme Court decision could obviously complicate things, Austin is committed to upholding reproductive healthcare access.

In the Biden administration, President Joe Biden himself, of course, also addressed the situation. The Supreme Court’s decision means state officials will be allowed to impose abortion restrictions as they see fit, and the process following that decision of imposing harsh, new restrictions on abortion around the country quickly began. Before the decision, more than a dozen states passed so-called “trigger” bans on abortion, which were designed to go into effect in the event Roe was, in fact, overturned. (Those bans have rare exceptions.) And it would seem appropriate to expect that Republican officials will be emboldened to push and enact additional new abortion restrictions now that Roe is overturned. “Florida will continue to defend its recently enacted pro-life reforms against state court challenges, will work to expand pro-life protections, and will stand for life by promoting adoption, foster care and child welfare,” Florida GOP Governor Ron DeSantis said Friday.

As for what Biden said, he pointed in part to upcoming elections. “Let me be very clear and unambiguous: The only way we can secure a woman’s right to choose and the balance that existed is for Congress to restore the protections of Roe v. Wade as federal law,” Biden said. It’s the Supreme Court’s prior interpretation of existing law — as outlined in Roe v. Wade — that established the federally recognized right to an abortion; it wasn’t a specific portion of federal law. “No executive action from the President can do that. And if Congress, as it appears, lacks the votes to do that now, voters need to make their voices heard,” Biden added Friday. “This fall, we must elect more senators and representatives who will codify a woman’s right to choose into federal law once again, [and] elect more state leaders to protect this right at the local level.”

The president’s team also got to work after the Supreme Court’s decision on figuring out ways to still protect what remains of the reproductive care access for child-bearing and potentially child-bearing people across the country. “If a woman lives in a state that restricts abortion, the Supreme Court’s decision does not prevent her from traveling from her home to a state that allows it,” a statement from the White House said. “If any state or local official tries to interfere with women exercising this basic right, the Biden Administration will fight that deeply un-American attack.” The Biden team is also angling to protect access to an abortion-inducing medication called mifepristone. “Almost half of U.S. states have banned or tightly restricted abortion pills — two medicines named mifepristone and misoprostol — and more could soon follow suit,” Axios reported late last year. Although it’s not where they end, these restrictions appear to cover providing such pills through the mail, which federal authorities allow.

Featured image: official photo, available under a Creative Commons license