March 27, 2023

Wyden, Merkley, Colleagues Underscore National Security Imperative to Provide Abortion Leave for Service Members

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley today joined colleagues urging the U.S. Department of Defense to protect national security interests by providing service members access to protected leave for abortion and reproductive health care services.

“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,” the senators wrote to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. “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.”

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 letter reaffirms commitment among senators to support the Department of Defense's (DOD) reproductive health care policies and that efforts will continue in the Senate to fiercely defend service members and their families’ health and freedoms.

The letter was led by Senators Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, and Michael Bennet, D-Colo. Joining Wyden and Merkley, the letter was signed by Senators Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., John Hickenlooper, D-Colo., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Catherine Cortez-Masto, D-Nev., Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., Tina Smith, D-Minn., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Alex Padilla, D-Calif., Chris Murphy, D-Conn., Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., Patty Murray, D-Wash., Peter Welch, D-Vt., Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., Gary Peters, D-Mich., Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Ben Cardin, D-Md., Tom Carper, D-Del., Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., Cory Booker, D-N.J., Ed Markey, D-Mass., Angus King, I-Maine, Tim Kaine, D-Va., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Chris Coons, D-Del., Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Mark Warner, D-Va., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. and Martin Heinrich, D-N.M.

The full letter is here.