Senator Wicker Continues to Demand Answers on DOD Abortion Policy Usage

March 27, 2024

WASHINGTON – The Biden administration has stated that the abortion travel regulations would have a significant effect on overall force readiness. U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., the highest-ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, had previously received data from the Army suggesting that during the timeframe of August to December 2023, only three service members used the abortion travel regulations established by the department after the Dobbs decision.

Senator Wicker sent a letter to the Secretary of the Defense on Monday criticizing the Department of Defense for its continued inability to justify the need for the abortion travel policy. He also highlighted how the paltry number of persons who used the policy defies the rhetoric of the Biden administration.

Then, on Tuesday, the department announced that there were 12 usages of the policy, across the entire Department of Defense, over the course of approximately six months.

Since this information was initially received indirectly, Senator Wicker pressed the department again for the “immediate delivery” of all data on abortion-related travel policy usage as soon as possible. He also reminded the department that it remains delinquent in response to several other inquiries from Senate Armed Services Republicans, who are requesting an articulation of how the abortion travel policy impacts overall readiness within the force.

Read the letter in full here or below.

March 25, 2024

The Honorable Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III

Secretary of Defense

1000 Defense Pentagon

Washington, DC 20301-1000

Dear Secretary Austin,

I have sent letters on March 1, 2023, September 15, 2023, and October 27, 2023 asking for information that justifies the Department of Defense abortion travel policy, only to be given incomplete, evasive, or outright non-answers to the questions asked. Your focus in your previous letter of December 20, 2023, on fertilization services and other women’s health issues that do not concern abortion are not the source of my questions. My true concern is the provision of non-covered abortion services that end the lives of unborn babies. In future letters, please focus your responses on this issue.

In a letter sent to members of this committee dated December 20, 2023, you told the members that “The first report on the cost and usage of these policies is due in January 2024 and will include data through December 31, 2023.” At the time of this writing, our committee has indirectly received data from the Army stating that between August 2023 and December 31, 2023, three service members utilized the policy and claimed travel expenses totaling $2,097.” This information was received indirectly through a different Senate committee. Please consider this letter another request from the Senate Armed Services Committee for the immediate delivery of all available data across the Department of Defense on the utilization of this policy.

Additionally, in the same response on December 20, 2023, you said, “To protect the privacy of service members, we will not keep track of the number of individuals who use the policy. Rather, we will keep track of the number of instances of travel, associated costs, and administrative absences.” This statement is contradicted by the Army's data which clearly provided the number of service members who have claimed reimbursement of travel expenses using the policy. I acknowledge that this issue requires discretion due to medical data of individuals, but discretion would not necessitate the refusal to track the number of persons who use the policy. That number is essential to best capture the actual readiness impact on the force, if any. I request the Department of Defense provide the number of service members across the Department who have used this policy, in the same form the Army has provided, since its implementation. To ensure privacy in this matter, the data should be Department of Defense wide, anonymous, and aggregated to safeguard the privacy of service members.

Finally, I reiterate that you must provide comprehensive answers to each of my previous questions, such as the use of this policy to facilitate late-term abortions, which we addressed in a letter we sent to you in September of 2023. In addition to this, please provide evidence and substantive data to support the claim that the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization would have “significant implications” for the “readiness of the Force.” It is imperative that you answer these questions directly and promptly so that this committee can effectively legislate on this matter.