Washington, DC – Today, Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA), the chair of the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee, issued the following statement in response to the Defense Department’s announcement of updated policies to expand access to reproductive health services for servicemembers and military family members:

“I commend Secretary Austin, Under Secretary Cisneros, and the Defense Department for taking bold and decisive action to protect servicemembers’ access to reproductive health care. This is a huge victory for women and families in the military, and one that many of us have been fighting for since before the Supreme Court gutted Roe v. Wade,” Chair Speier said. “Servicemembers don’t get to choose where they are stationed, and many are assigned to the 92 installations in states that have eliminated access to abortion care. The military’s new policy answers our request to provide leave and cover travel costs for servicemembers and military family members who must travel long distances to access basic care, including abortion care and assistive reproductive services like IVF. Sec. Austin also directed additional and necessary policies be implemented to protect privacy of medical information for servicemembers, prohibit discrimination or retaliation against those who seek reproductive health care, and protect and support Department of Defense health care providers who perform their duties consistent with federal law.”

“To all the servicemembers who have come forward with your stories, and the brave military members and health care providers who testified at my House Armed Services Military Personnel hearing, you made this possible. This new guidance will be life-changing and lifesaving, and it will improve military readiness, recruitment, and retention. And it’s the least we can do to support our military personnel and their families who put their lives on the line in defense of our freedoms.”

Congresswoman Speier is the sponsor of the MARCH for Servicemembers Act, which would allow military medical treatment facilities (MTF) to provide abortion services and for the military to cover associated costs, and the Access to Contraception for Servicemembers and Dependents Act, which would eliminate TRICARE copays for contraception and require the Department to develop a comprehensive family planning education program.

Following the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, Congresswoman Speier and Congressman Crow led a letter to Secretary Austin urging the Department to remove barriers for taking leave; strengthen servicemember privacy and protect against retaliation; and provide direct financial support for servicemembers requiring travel for abortion care. Congresswoman Speier also held a hearing in the Military Personnel Subcommittee on Servicemembers’ Reproductive Health and Readiness, which featured the stories of providers and servicemembers who’ve received abortions. She also led a letter to Secretary Austin urging him to use his authority to eliminate copays for contraception, an action which is highlighted in the memo.

A copy of Sec. Austin’s memo is attached below.