US military will continue offering abortions when a woman's health is at risk, officials announce after Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade

US military will continue offering abortions when a woman's health is at risk, officials announce after Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade
US Military membersBo Zaunders/Getty Images
  • The US military will continue to offer abortions in the case of rape or incest, or when the mother's life is at risk, according to a DOD memo.

The Department of Defense will continue to offer abortions to service members in cases where the pregnancy puts the life of the mother at risk or is the result of rape or incest, according to a memo obtained by Insider.

The care extends to service members, dependents, beneficiaries, and Department of Defense civilians, the memo from Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Gil Cisneros Jr. said.

"Nothing is more important than the health and well-being of our Service members, the civilian workforce, and DoD families, and we are committed to taking care of all of our people and ensuring that the entire Force remains ready and resilient," the memo said.

The Hyde Amendment, adopted in 1980, prevents federal funds from being used to pay for abortion unless it would save the life of the mother or in the case of rape or incest. That means that TRICARE, the military's health care program, won't cover abortions in many cases.

Even with those exceptions, it can be exceptionally difficult to prove that the pregnancy would jeopardize the service member's life. In 2008, a female service member's found out she was pregnant while undergoing chemotherapy for kidney cancer and TRICARE denied the request to get an abortion, despite the high risk of fetal anomalies associated with chemotherapy.


The woman's physician told VICE News that TRICARE was refusing to provide "a safe procedure" so that she could proceed with cancer care.

When abortions are approved, it can be difficult to find military medical staff who are trained to perform the procedure as the restrictions on abortions make it harder for military residency programs to provide training for obstetrics and gynecology residents.

In a 2013 report for Congress, researchers found that military physicians tend to be generally more conservative and even when training was available it was unlikely residents would volunteer to take it in order to not "ruffle the feathers of a superior."

On Friday, after the Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austion said he is "committed to taking care of our people" and that the military was closely examining the decision to "ensure we continue to provide seamless access to reproductive health care as permitted by federal law."

Nine states, including Texas, which is home to over a dozen military installations, will not allow abortions even in the case of rape or incest, which makes the DOD's policy more lenient than state regulations.


Women make up about 20% of the military's 1.3 million active-duty force, according to Department of Defense statistics.

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.