House votes to kill Pentagon’s controversial abortion travel policy

The House of Representatives voted Thursday to terminate the Defense Department’s policy of allowing servicemembers to travel across state lines to get an abortion and reimbursing them for their travel costs.

Lawmakers voted 221-213 in favor of an amendment to the annual defense policy bill from Rep. Ronny Jackson, R-Texas, that would force the Pentagon to end this policy. The Defense Department put the policy in place shortly after the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade.

The House vote is a victory for conservatives who hinted that including the language in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was critical to their support for the entire bill. However, the language is certain to lead many Democrats to vote against the bill.

It would theoretically put House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., in a tough spot when it comes to passing the NDAA. With just a razor-thin House majority, he can afford to lose no more than four votes for any legislation to pass without Democratic support. It’s also not clear yet if hardliners in his conference will get everything they want in order to vote yes on the final bill.

‘My colleagues on the other side of the aisle like to thank the troops and talk about honoring their sacrifice, and that’s all frankly empty words and broken promises if this amendment passes,’ Rep. Mikie Sherrill, D-N.J., said during debate ahead of the vote. ‘This amendment puts service women and military families’ lives at risk by denying the basic right to travel for healthcare no longer available where they are stationed.’

In his defense of the amendment, Jackson argued the Biden administration’s policy is ‘in direct violation of federal law.’

‘In the wake of the Supreme Court’s historic Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade, the Biden administration immediately set out to side-step the ruling and circumvent the law wherever possible,’ Jackson said. ‘The Biden administration has encouraged every federal agency to create rules and adopt policies that not only expand abortion access but also leave American taxpayers on the hook to subsidize abortion services.’

He cited an existing rule, the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the use of federal funds to perform abortions.

‘No doubt my colleagues on the other side of the aisle will insist that taxpayer dollars are not directly funding abortions thereby rendering the current policy legally sound. This is absolutely misleading,’ Jackson said.

The vote was part of a series of 12 largely Republican-backed amendments to the NDAA being voted on as part of a series. There are more than 300 amendments offered in the House in total.

Amendments by GOP Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Matt Gaetz of Florida to curb the U.S.’ funding to Ukraine failed with no Democratic support and were largely opposed by Republicans as well.

Another by Rep. Matt Rosendale, R-Mont., that would ban the use of military healthcare for gender transition surgeries or hormone therapies, passed 222-211.

Two amendments from Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, were aimed at cracking down on the use of diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives in the military, and both were approved. The first looked to ban the use of federal funds to establish diversity officer and advisor roles within the Pentagon, while the second prohibited the Defense Department’s educational arm from promoting teachings that call the U.S. and its founding documents racist.

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