Senate Republicans press Pentagon for evidence to back claim abortion ruling may impact military 'readiness'

Republicans contend abortion access policies in place at DOD would not be affected by the Supreme Court decision

EXCLUSIVE: Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee are requesting information from the Pentagon regarding a new memo that alleges the Supreme Court's recent abortion decision will impact the "readiness" of the military force, which the lawmakers argue does not provide sufficient supporting evidence.

The Supreme Court recently overturned the 1973 landmark ruling Roe v. Wade in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, returning the issue of abortion to the states. Following the Dobbs decision, the Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Gilbert R. Cisneros Jr. released a memo on June 28 stating that the court's decision has "significant implications" for service members and the overall "readiness of the Force."

Current law prohibits DOD from paying for service members' abortions unless the life of the mother is endangered and in other more rare circumstances, including incest and rape. Therefore, the Pentagon acknowledges in the memo that there would be no impact on the existing prohibitions under federal law.

The memo also states that the Dobbs decision would have no impact on already existing leave policies, which currently authorize DOD employees to travel to receive abortion services, and sick leave may continue to be used to cover time off needed to receive such procedures.

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Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., arrives for the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the conclusion of military operations in Afghanistan and plans for future counterterrorism operations, in Dirksen Building on Tuesday, September 28, 2021.

Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., arrives for the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the conclusion of military operations in Afghanistan and plans for future counterterrorism operations, in Dirksen Building on Tuesday, September 28, 2021. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Despite writing that there would be no change at all to any existing policies, the memo continues: "The implications of the Supreme Court's decision are complicated and must be evaluated against various state laws, together with the views of the Department of Justice" and that additional guidance may be forthcoming.

Senate Republicans, led by Ranking Member Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., are now asking the Pentagon to explain why the Dobbs decision would impact military readiness if every abortion access policy in place would not be affected.

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The senators write that there is "no evidence presented in this memo to support the conclusion that the Dobbs decision will have ‘significant implications’ for the ‘readiness of the Force.’" They ask Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to detail what the "significant implications" are and what data were used to support that conclusion. 

In addition, the senators request to know what "additional guidance" the Pentagon plans to use and what policies and procedures are currently under review by the department.

President Joe Biden signs an executive order on abortion access during an event in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Friday, July 8, 2022, in Washington.

President Joe Biden signs an executive order on abortion access during an event in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Friday, July 8, 2022, in Washington. (AP Newsroom)

The GOP lawmakers say they wish to be consulted by the Pentagon before any additional guidance is issued as well.

The senators joining Inhofe on the letter include: Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Deb Fischer, R-Neb., Tom Cotton, R-Ark., Mike Rounds, R-S.D., Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, Thom Tillis, R-N.C., Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., Rick Scott, R-Fla., Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., Josh Hawley, R-Mo., and Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala.

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Acting Pentagon press secretary Todd Breasseale told Fox News Digital: "The health and well-being of our servicemembers is of paramount concern to the department. We will respond appropriately once the letter is received and reviewed."

Crowds outside the court reacting to the Dobbs ruling.

Crowds outside the court reacting to the Dobbs ruling. (Joshua Comins/Fox News)

The Biden administration took executive action on abortion last week, directing the Department of Health and Human Services to push back against any state efforts to limit a woman’s ability to go across state lines for a legal abortion or to get federally approved abortion medication.

In addition, the Department of Justice announced the creation of a special task force on Tuesday designated to push back against state and local crackdowns on abortion. 

Fox News' Haris Alic contributed to this report.