EXCLUSIVE: A coalition of pro-life groups is calling on House Republicans to rescind the Department of Defense’s policy allowing service members time off and travel reimbursements for abortions through the annual National Defense Authorization Act.
In a letter obtained exclusively by Fox News Digital, nearly 50 think tanks and activist organizations accused the Biden administration of politicizing the DoD by using taxpayer money to fund elective abortions for service members.
The letter, which was sent to lawmakers on Thursday, asked Republicans on Capitol Hill to fully repeal the department’s ‘illegal’ policy through the NDAA ‘in order for a ‘clean’ bill to move forward.’
Organizations that signed the plea include the Heritage Foundation, Heritage Action for America, Students for Life Action, Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, Family Research Council and the American Cornerstone Institute.
‘The Pentagon firmly entered the political space when it opted to change policy and start granting paid vacation and funding of travel expenses for service members to obtain abortions,’ Thomas Spoehr, Director at the Center for National Defense at the Heritage Foundation told Fox News Digital. ‘This despite longstanding laws prohibiting federal support for abortions. The NDAA, where Congress provides the annual direction for [the] DoD to operate, is the most appropriate vehicle for Congress to direct the Pentagon to return to its previous policies on abortion.’
The letter was addressed to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, Calif.; House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, La.; House Majority Whip Tom Emmer, Minn.; House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, N.Y.; House Republican Policy Committee Chair Gary Palmer, Ala.; House Rules Committee Chair Tom Cole, Okla.; House Armed Services Committee Chair Mike Rogers, Ala.; and House Appropriations Committee Chair Kay Granger, Texas.
None of the House Republicans who received the letter responded to Fox News Digital’s request for comment before publication.
The House Armed Services Committee passed the NDAA for Fiscal Year 2024 last month, and House Republicans could take up the bill as early as next week. GOP lawmakers filed numerous amendments last week that they hope to be included in the NDAA for 2024.
‘Clear language defunding Biden’s abortion travel policy has passed the Appropriations Committee in the Department of Defense Appropriations bill, but the NDAA is the legislative vehicle to reassert Congress’ authority over policymaking and ensure that our nation’s laws and policies reflect the will of the American people,’ the groups wrote in the letter. ‘Now that the House Armed Services Committee has passed the FY24 NDAA, it is imperative that this policy be fully repealed in any NDAA that passes on the House floor.’
The Pentagon’s policy allowing service members time off for an elective abortion and reimbursing them for travel costs related to the procedure was put in place last year following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, which gave states the authority to determine their own abortion laws.
After the ruling, Biden affirmed his position that his administration was committed to protecting access to abortion.
‘After the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs, President Biden declared his intent to further his pro-abortion agenda through every means possible,’ the coalition wrote in the letter. ‘Four days after the decision, on June 28, 2022, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, Gilbert Cisneros Jr. released a memo detailing the department’s existing authority on paying for abortions stating clearly that travel for non-covered abortions would be paid ‘at the service member’s own expense.”
The letter continued: ‘However, continued pressure from the Biden Administration’s Taskforce on Reproductive Healthcare Access led the Department of Defense to reconsider their stance to follow all applicable laws on performing and paying for abortions. An October 22, 2022, memo from Secretary Lloyd Austin outlined new policies that use taxpayer funds to pay for time off, lodging and travel for elective abortions, and these policies were made official on February 16, 2023.’
Heritage Action for America Acting Executive Director Ryan Walker told Fox News Digital that Austin bypassed Congress and the federal rulemaking process with the October memo.
‘This not only violated longstanding federal law prohibiting taxpayer funding for abortions, but it also heavily politicized the traditionally bipartisan NDAA process,’ Walker said. ‘Now, as the coalition points out, the only way Congress can ensure a bipartisan NDAA moves forward is by rescinding this DOD policy through amendments on the floor.’
Representatives now have their first opportunity to reauthorize the DoD and its policies since the decision went into effect.
House Republicans have put forward amendments in the NDAA bill in support of rescinding this policy and have also included provisions to shut down the Biden administration’s ‘woke’ policies related to gender and diversity, equity and inclusion.
The Pentagon has faced criticism throughout the Biden administration for pushing social issues into the military that Republicans argue distract from war preparedness.
The groups began to wrap the letter up by saying Americans expect the military to ‘focus on winning actual wars, not fighting culture wars’ and ‘the majority (60%) do not approve of using taxpayer money to fund abortions.’
‘Rather than focusing on confronting the serious challenges facing our country, President Biden and Secretary Austin have unnecessarily dragged the military into the middle of a divisive political issue and attempted to co-opt military resources in furtherance of an unrelated, partisan, ideological agenda,’ the organizations concluded. ‘The House of Representatives now has an opportunity to remedy these egregious actions and pass a truly clean NDAA.’