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Rep. Sara Jacobs Pushes for Service Members’ Freedom to Access Abortion Care

In a speech on the House Floor today, Congresswoman Sara Jacobs (CA-53) pushed for service members to have the freedom to access reproductive health care, including abortion care. Congresswoman Jacobs is a co-lead of the MARCH for Servicemembers Act and an original cosponsor of the Access to Reproductive Care for Servicemembers Act, which was introduced today and would protect service members’ right to abortion care in the military, regardless of where they’re stationed and that state’s abortion laws.


Watch Congresswoman Sara Jacobs’ Floor Speech Here


On the House Floor, Congresswoman Sara Jacobs said:


“I’m so proud to represent San Diego’s vibrant and diverse military community in Congress and on the House Armed Services Committee. 


“And when I go home and talk to my constituents, they ask me what I’m doing to make sure their loved ones are taken care of, that they are going to be safe. Not just when they are deployed abroad, but when they are here at home. 


“And I have to look these families in the eye and tell them that right now, their loved ones who do so much to serve and sacrifice for our country, will not necessarily have safe housing, affordable child care, and quality health care, including reproductive health care.


“We owe our service members so much more. Because even though they volunteered to serve in our Armed Services, they didn’t volunteer to give up their reproductive rights.


“Decisions about if, when, and how to have a family belong to our service members – not the Supreme Court or elected officials. And taking away these fundamental rights doesn’t just hurt these individuals, it hurts our military readiness, recruitment and retention, and morale, putting our national security in jeopardy.


“With 40% of active-duty servicewomen having very limited or zero access to abortion services where they are stationed, our military’s ability to adapt to evolving conflicts and challenges is severely compromised.


“I’m proud to be from California, where abortion is currently safe and legal. But not everyone is lucky enough to be stationed in California.


“As of July, about 84,000 servicewomen were stationed at a base located in a state with a ‘trigger law,’ and with new abortion bans going into effect, that number will only grow. No matter where you live or are stationed, no matter how much money you make, you should have access to abortion.


“And the truth is that none of us can take our existing state laws for granted. Because a Republican majority in Congress or a Republican President will push for a national abortion ban. This isn’t even a secret…they literally already introduced it!


“We also need to remember that even before the Supreme Court took away our constitutional right to abortion, service members faced huge barriers to accessing necessary reproductive health care. 


“DoD already couldn’t provide or pay for abortions in most circumstances, and service members looking for care off-base were limited by restrictions on travel. And after Dobbs, abortion access is even harder for service members. 


“They can’t freely take off days from work. And many can’t afford to travel thousands of miles and pay out of pocket to receive the care they need and deserve. This is unacceptable. We have a responsibility to ensure our service members have access to the care they need.


“That’s why I joined my friend, Congresswoman Speier, to introduce the MARCH for Servicemembers Act, which would allow military medical treatment facilities to provide abortion services and permit the military to cover the associated costs.


“And it’s why I’m proud to be an original cosponsor of the Access to Reproductive Care for Servicemembers Act, introduced this week by Congressman Crow and Congresswoman Speier. This crucial legislation would ensure that leave requests to seek an abortion are confidential and approved without delay, and push to have DOD provide travel reimbursement for those seeking abortion care.


“None of these solutions are radical. They’re not extreme. All they do is empower and support our service members to make their own health care decisions. 


“And when we’ve already asked our service members to put their lives on the line for our freedom, we cannot and should not take away theirs. Thank you so much, Madam Chair. I yield back.”


The Access to Reproductive Care for Servicemembers Act would:

  • Redefine abortion as time-sensitive, therefore requiring a commander to approve leave automatically;
  • Allow service members to request and receive leave for abortion care without specifying to a commander the nature of the procedure; 
  • In the case that abortion care is not provided in the service members’ jurisdiction, require DoD to pay for travel expenses – consistent with DoD policy for other necessary health care travel; and
  • Prohibit retaliation or adverse action from commanding officers or fellow service members for receiving an abortion.