Women’s Health Care at DOD Unchanged by Roe Decision

JULY 30, 2022 — While last month’s Supreme Court opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization means each state now passes its own laws regarding abortion services, the health care the Department of Defense provides to the military has not changed, the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and readiness says.

“Servicemen can receive the same reproductive health care after Dobbs as they did before the ruling,” Gil Cisneros told the House Armed Services Committee today. “Under long-standing federal law, ‘covered abortions’ — cases involving rape, incest, or in which the mother’s life would be in danger — will continue to be permitted to use federal funds and facilities. There is no interruption of this care.

Travel policies related to health care also remain, Cisneros said. If a service member must travel to obtain a covered abortion, they may do so with official status and will not be charged for leave.

While the department will continue to be able to provide service members with the same level of health care it has always provided, Cisneros said the department is aware that the Dobbs decision will change the options available to some service members. regarding abortions that are not covered by ministry policy. Depending on the laws that may be in effect in the state where a service member is stationed, abortion services may not be available.

“Service members now face additional challenges to access essential health care services for women,” he said. “Military members and their families, who were previously able to make very personal decisions about when to have a family, can now face greater burdens depending on where they are stationed.”

Cisneros told lawmakers that the DOD continues to review its personnel and medical policies in the wake of the Dobbs decision.

“We understand the very personal nature of the impact of the court’s decision on the families,” he said. “We are very deliberate in analyzing Dobbs with both focus and compassion. We want to make sure we get it right because it impacts access to essential healthcare and reproductive care for women. . »

Another aspect of reproductive health care that interested legislators concerned the availability of contraception within the military health care system. Seileen Mullen, acting secretary of defense for health affairs, said that until recently the DOD had set up birth control clinics at 18 military treatment centers in the department. Now, she said, the plan is to have these clinics in all of the department’s military treatment facilities.

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

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

“We are currently updating our policies so that service members and their families can receive these IUDs through the TRICARE health system without having to pay a copayment, which is currently the case at this time,” he said. declared. “We are changing our policy, updating it, so the copayment is eliminated with this.”

Mullen also told lawmakers that the department will soon release the results of a women’s reproductive health survey conducted by the RAND Corporation, which reveals a lack of knowledge among service members regarding contraceptive options.

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

Currently, Mullen said, there is a small copayment for active duty members to obtain contraceptives, but congressional legislation could change that — making contraception completely free for service members and their families. .

“We also have … an app called ‘Decide and Be Prepared’ that men and women can use to browse their contraceptive options to decide what’s best for them,” she said. “We also have these walk-in clinics that are…expanded this year as well. But… it’s quite amazing how our young men and women don’t really know what their reproductive rights and health care are, and we need to do a better job.

BY C. TODD LOPEZ, DOD NEWS

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