Congress Drops Amendment Banning Military Spending on Abortion and Sex Change Surgeries

The abortion amendment would have mandated that the U.S. military stop its program of granting service members paid leave and paying for travel expenses to obtain abortions.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin issued a memorandum in 2022 announcing that the department would provide paid leave and reimbursement for travel expenses for service members who seek to obtain an abortion.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin issued a memorandum in 2022 announcing that the department would provide paid leave and reimbursement for travel expenses for service members who seek to obtain an abortion. (photo: U.S. Secretary of Defense / Wikipedia|CC)

The House and Senate reached a compromise version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on Thursday in which they dropped House amendments banning military spending on abortion and sex change surgeries.

draft of the compromise version, released by the House Armed Services Committee on Thursday, revealed the House backed off from both the abortion and transgender amendments that were passed in July.

The abortion amendment, which was filed by Texas Republican Rep. Ronny Jackson, would have mandated that the U.S. military stop its program of granting service members paid leave and paying for travel expenses to obtain abortions. The amendment banning military spending on transgender hormonal treatments and surgeries was filed by Montana Republican Rep. Matthew Rosendale. Both passed in narrow, near party-line votes.

The NDAA is an annual “must-pass” spending package that sets the military’s budget for the next year. While the package has typically passed in bipartisan votes in previous years, several controversial military policies, including the abortion and transgender surgery spending, have made the NDAA’s passage a more hotly debated topic.

Both the House and Senate passed their versions of the package in July, before the two chambers’ armed services committees met to reconcile the differences with a compromise bill.

The compromise version of this year’s NDAA funds the military at nearly $900 billion. The package must now be approved by both bodies of Congress and then signed by President Joe Biden.

The decision to drop the pro-life amendment from the NDAA comes as a blow to pro-life efforts to stop the military’s use of tax dollars to facilitate abortion. This comes just shortly after Sen. Tommy Tuberville, an Alabama Republican, ended his 10-month-long blockade on military promotions that sought to force the Pentagon to change its abortion policies.

The Senate went on to confirm 425 military promotions that same day, leaving only 11 of the military’s highest-ranking promotions, four-star generals, on hold, according to reporting by NBC News.

Though vowing to continue fighting the military’s abortion policy, Tuberville announced on Tuesday that he would be ending his blockade that had held up hundreds of high-ranking military promotions.

In accordance with a memorandum sent by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in October 2022, the Department of Defense has been providing paid leave and reimbursement for travel expenses for service members who seek to obtain an abortion. It also covers travel costs for dependents and spouses.

Tuberville and several other Republican lawmakers have argued that the Defense Department’s policy violates federal laws such as the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal tax dollar spending on abortion. 

“This policy is illegal,” Tuberville said on the Senate floor on Wednesday. “Yesterday I announced that I would change my tactics and let the promotions go through … I’m not going to stop fighting for these things and I’m not going to stop fighting for the American people.”

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