Defense Bill Ditches Ban On Abortion Travel And Transgender Treatments

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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A compromise version of the final defense bill got rid of proposals in the House’s version that would have prohibited the Pentagon from funding treatments for transgender troops or abortion travel, despite the GOP championing efforts to strip so-called woke practices from the Department of Defense (DOD).

The House version of the bill passed in July overturned the Pentagon’s abortion travel coverage policy and blocked the military insurance from covering sex reassignment surgeries and gender-transition hormone treatments, according to a copy of the bill. Republicans in the Democrat-controlled Senate did not include similar provisions in their version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2024, setting conditions for Republicans on the conference committee to cave as the two chambers hammered out the final bill.

Some Republicans condemned the final compromise version. (RELATED: Congress’ Final Defense Bill Cracks Down On Pentagon DEI Bureaucracy)

“Speaker Johnson worked with Chuck Schumer to cut a deal that removes all abortion and trans surgery prohibitions we passed under Speaker McCarthy,” Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene of Georgia said in a social media statement. “Is the GOP really going to fund abortion vacations and trans surgeries, fund the Ukraine war, all with a CLEAN FISA extension under Speaker Johnson?”

“So the House GOP is going to work with Democrats to pass a crappy, watered down NDAA (losing most of the stuff we fought for – abortion, transgender, CRT/DEI) along with an almost 4 month continuation of FISA (spying on Americans with no reforms yet)?” Republican Rep. Chip Roy of Texas said in a statement on X, formerly Twitter.

In July’s near-party line vote, the House decided 221 to 213 on an amendment prohibiting the Department of Defense (DOD) from reimbursing servicemembers for travel expenses incurred when seeking abortions and a handful of other reproductive procedures out-of-state, records show. The House also voted 222 to 211 to prevent the DOD medical plan from paying for sex change surgeries and hormone therapies in a package designed to maintain GOP unity and allow the yearly defense policy bill to move forward on the House floor, The New York Times reported.

“The taxpayer money is going directly to support abortions, and anyone in this chamber that says differently is blatantly lying to the American people,” GOP Rep. Ronny Jackson of Texas, who sponsored the amendment, said, according to the NYT.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announced in February the DOD would pay for troops to travel to states that allow abortions and obtain so-called “reproductive health care” at non-military facilities following the landmark Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization Supreme Court decision. The court gave states the authority to determine abortion restrictions for themselves, triggering concerns among the Pentagon of tightening abortion laws and their impact on female recruiting and retention.

Republican Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst led a separate vote in the Senate to overturn the abortion travel policy in June that failed to obtain the necessary votes.

Republican Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s gambit to hold up top military confirmations until the Pentagon rescinds the policy is also on its last leg. Tuberville relented on more than 400 officer promotions, leaving just of the highest ranking positions 11 for individual confirmation votes in the Senate.

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