Former Biden Pentagon Personnel Chief Says Abortion Policy Was Meant To Get Around Supreme Court ‘Error’

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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The Pentagon’s former personnel chief said Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s abortion travel policy at the center of drama involving the Department of Defense (DOD) and Congress in the past year was intended to circumvent a Supreme Court “error” in an opinion article published in The Hill on Tuesday.

After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022 giving states the power to regulate abortion, many state legislatures passed stronger restrictions or outright bans on abortion. The Pentagon’s policy announced in February funded service members to take leave and travel out of state for abortions, but Gilbert Cisneros, who retired as the undersecretary of defense for Personnel and Readiness in September, warned a new president could reverse the policy immediately on taking office.

“The Department of Defense’s abortion travel policy was a necessary, though incomplete, step to remedying the Supreme Court’s error. It also could be reversed on the very first day of a new administration. There is a moral imperative to enshrine basic reproductive rights for service women, military families and all Americans into law,” Cisneros wrote. (RELATED: Defense Bill Ditches Ban On Abortion Travel And Transgender Treatments)

Cisneros cited a recent case in Texas, where abortions are banned after the baby’s heartbeat can be detected, of Kate Cox, who was seeking an abortion at 20 weeks allegedly due to possible health complications of a C-section for a child who likely would not survive. Cox’s case could be replicated among any female servicemember stationed in a state that restricts abortion, he said.

Abortion bans unfairly burden women in the military, Cisneros argued, a line he used to justify the policy while serving at the Pentagon. However, the Pentagon has not disclosed research on the impact of restrictions or how often the policy has been utilized.

GOP lawmakers pushed back at the Biden administration over the policy, accusing the Pentagon of trying to skirt state laws and a provision against federal funding of abortions.

Republican Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville blocked officer confirmations at the highest ranks for nearly nine months in protest of the travel policy, relenting in December.

“Through the more than a decade I was in active service I never doubted that as part of my service, skill training, fair pay and health coverage would be there for me. Basic fairness says all those who serve receive the same benefits I did,” he wrote. “There is no reason, nor rationale, nor justification for why a woman serving our country should not feel the same commitment that I felt. That’s just not the American way.”

He urged readers to “vote our values” in the upcoming presidential election and called Republican candidates “wolves dressed in sheep’s skin.”

“We cannot afford to elect more special interest frauds or right-wing ideologues to positions of power,” Cisneros wrote.

Gil previously served in Congress as a democrat from California before President Joe Biden tapped him for the Pentagon posting.

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