Women’s Health Care in DOD Unchanged by Supreme Court Decision > Department of Defense > Department of Defense News

While last month’s Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization means each state will now make its own laws regarding abortion services, the health care the Department of Defense provides to military members has not changed, the undersecretary for office said staff and preparedness.

“Service members can receive the same reproductive health care after Dobbs as they did before the ruling,” Gil Cisneros testified before the House Armed Services Committee today. “In accordance with long-standing federal law, ‘disguised abortions’ – those cases involving rape, incest or endangering the life of the mother – will continue to be entitled to use federal funds and facilities. This will not interrupt care.”

Travel policies related to healthcare also remain in place, Cisneros said. If a service member must travel to have a covered abortion, she may do so with official status and no leave will be charged.

While the department will continue to be able to provide the same level of health care to service members, Cisneros said the department is aware that the Dobbs decision will change the options available to some service members when it comes to abortions that are needed these are not covered by department policy. Abortion services may not be available due to laws that may apply in the state in which a service member is stationed.

“Service members now face additional challenges to gain access to essential women’s health services,” he said. “Soldiers and their families, who used to be able to make very personal decisions about when to start a family, can now face greater stress depending on where they’re deployed.”

Cisneros told lawmakers that the DOD is continuing to review its human resources and medical policies as a result of the Dobbs decision.

“We understand the very personal nature of how the court decision affects families,” he said. “We are very consciously analyzing Dobbs with focus and compassion. We want to make sure we’re doing this right because it impacts women’s access to basic health and reproductive care.”

Another aspect of reproductive health care that legislators were interested in concerned the availability of contraceptives within the military health care system. Seileen Mullen, acting Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, testified that until recently, the DOD had established contraception clinics at 18 military treatment facilities across the department. Now, she said, the plan is to have these clinics in all military treatment facilities across the department.

“We’ve expanded where we have contraceptive clinics for military treatments — walk-in clinics,” she said. “A woman or a man could come, get advice and decide what contraceptives they need that day.”

Cisneros said the department is changing guidelines on one form of birth control in particular — the intrauterine device, or IUD — to make it available to more service members.

“We are currently updating our policy to allow service members and their families to receive these IUDs through the TRICARE healthcare system without having to pay a co-payment, which is currently the case,” he said. “We’re changing our policy, updating it so that the co-payment is eliminated with it.”

Mullen also told lawmakers that the department would soon release the results of a survey on women’s reproductive health conducted by RAND Corporation that revealed a lack of knowledge among military personnel about contraceptive options.

“This is the first time in 30 years,” Mullen said. “It gave us quite a lot of information … including[ing that there’s] a lack of education about women’s options regarding contraceptives that are free in our MTFs. All active duty members receive free contraception at MTFs and at our retail pharmacies.”

Right now, Mullen said, there’s a small co-payment for active-duty members to get contraception, but Congressional legislation could change that — by making contraception completely free for service members and their families.

“We also have an app called ‘Decide and Be Ready,’ which men and women can use to go through their birth control options to decide what’s best for them,” she said. “We also have these walk-in clinics that are … also expanding this year. But … it’s kind of amazing how our young men and women really don’t know exactly what their reproductive rights and health care is made up of, and we need to do a better job.”

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