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Baldwin Joins Colleagues in Sending Letter to Pentagon Underscoring Need for Abortion Leave for Service Members

Letter reaffirms key U.S. national security priorities tied to providing access to non-covered reproductive health care for service members in wake of the Supreme Court reversing Roe v. Wade

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) joined 37 senators in sending a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, underscoring the serious national security imperatives tied to providing U.S. service members access to protected leave for abortion and reproductive health care services. The letter addresses numerous national security implications in the wake of the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade, which in addition to disenfranchising U.S. servicewomen control over their own bodies, risks serious repercussions for the U.S. military, including health of the force, military readiness and recruitment and retention. The letter reaffirms commitment among Senators to support the Department of Defense's (DOD) reproductive health care policies.

“Following the Dobbs decision, the RAND Corporation estimates that 40% of active duty women serving in the continental United States face limited or no access to abortion services where they are stationed. When service members are assigned to duty stations either domestically or overseas, their placement is determined by the needs of the U.S. military. Women service members, who make up approximately 17% of active duty military, have no say in where they are stationed, even if their duty station is in a state that severely limits or restricts access to abortion or other critical reproductive health services. It is unacceptable that service members or their dependents should face limited or no access to abortion care simply because of where they are stationed as part of their service to the United States,” write the Senators.

In their letter, the Senators explain the national security implications for restricting service members’ reproductive freedom and underscore the dangerous message sent to women in uniform – current and future – that they cannot be trusted to make their own decisions about their health and families. The Senators conclude the letter by reaffirming Senate Democrats’ commitment to ensure the full implementation of the Department’s reproductive policies and that efforts will continue in the Senate to fiercely defend service members and their families’ health and freedoms.

Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Michael Bennet (D-CO) led the letter, and other signers include Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Tina Smith (D-MN), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Patty Murray (D-WA), Peter Welch (D-VT), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Gary Peters (D-MI), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tom Carper (D-DE), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ed Markey (D-MA), Angus King (I-ME), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Mark Warner (D-VA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM).

Senator Baldwin has long prioritized access to comprehensive reproductive health care for servicewomen, including by introducing legislation to ensure women veterans have access to their contraception without a copay, and by co-sponsoring legislation to ensure military families can receive the quality reproductive health care they deserve.

The full letter is available here.