The recent opinion of the Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization does not prohibit the Department of Defense from continuing to provide essential women’s health services to service members, dependents, other beneficiaries and DOD civilian employees, the Under Secretary said. to defense for personnel and preparation. in a note published today.
Gilbert R. Cisneros Jr. noted that under existing federal law, the DOD can only perform or pay for abortions if the mother’s life would be endangered if the fetus were carried to term, or if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest – called “covered abortions.”
The recent Supreme Court decision does not prohibit the DOD from continuing to perform these covered abortions, in accordance with federal law, he wrote.
“There will be no interruption of this care,” Cisneros said.
“Health care providers will continue to follow existing departmental policy,” he continued, adding that military medical treatment facilities will implement measures to ensure continued access to care.
Cisneros said the Justice Department’s longstanding position is that states generally cannot impose criminal or civil liability on federal employees who perform their official duties in a manner authorized by federal law.
The DOD will work with the Department of Justice to ensure access to counsel for civilian employees and service members if needed and appropriate, he wrote.
No impact on leave policies
The Supreme Court’s decision also does not affect DOD furlough policies, Cisneros said.
“Existing department policy permits active duty members to travel as necessary to receive abortion care,” he said. Travel may be government funded, official travel for a covered abortion, or in all other cases, it may be taken as regular leave at the service member’s expense.
“Access to emergency or convalescent leave remains unchanged for all service members,” Cisneros noted.
DOD civilian employees can continue to use sick leave or other forms of leave as needed to care for themselves or family members, he said. Sick leave can also be used to cover travel that may be required to obtain any type of medical treatment.
DOD, Military Departments, and the DOD Office of the General Counsel will continue to review current DOD policies and procedures in light of changing state laws to assess any impact they may have on the DOD. Additional guidelines will be issued as needed.
“As always, we will take every step in our power to ensure the safety and health of every member of our team,” Cisneros wrote.