Stunning in all its implications; there are no words….
Former secretaries of the Army, Navy and Air Force as well as former high-ranking military service members say that restricting access to mifepristone, the medication used in more than half of all medical abortions in the U.S., would hurt recruitment, military readiness and cause undue harm to national security.
In a brief filed to the U.S. Supreme Court ahead of oral arguments March 26 in a case challenging the availability of the drug, former secretaries Louis Caldera of the Army, Ray Mabus of the Navy and Deborah James of the Air Force urged the court to reject any move to limit its access.
The three secretaries all served under Democratic administrations.
At issue in the case is a challenge to the Food and Drug Administration’s long-standing approval of the drug and federal judicial rulings on prescriptions for it and access to it by telemedicine or mail.
The case is also part of a larger legal and political fight in the U.S. over abortion access after the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade in 2022, and unleashed a struggle in the courts — also between Republicans and Democrats — as states have legislated their own rules and restrictions on abortion.
The secretaries, joined by retired Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy — the Army’s first female three-star officer — and others, including the Vet Voice Foundation, a nonprofit veterans advocacy group, said restrictions would impair recruitment, which in itself poses a strain on the existing force.
They added that restrictions would also affect operational readiness if it caused women to leave the service to care for unplanned or unwanted children, and would hamper the Defense Department’s ability to provide all aspects of health care to women.
“The ability to maintain that readiness is currently in danger … as the military faces a recruiting crisis driven largely by a dearth of Americans, especially men, who are interested in joining the military and meet its rigorous enlistment qualification standards,” they wrote.
“Women ‘represent a higher percentage of the recruitable population than their male counterparts,’” they added, citing a report by the Rand Corp., a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.
Thus, given the current challenges of military recruitment, the nation can’t afford for the services to not “offer health care access that supports their training, service, career progression and personal choices,” the brief adds.
The GAO found that women largely leave the service over six concerns: family planning, dependent care, work schedules, organizational culture, deployments and sexual assault.
With women making up half the potential recruiting pool, the DoD needs to do more to address the continuing gaps between gender in the U.S. military, the GAO said.
Those filing the amicus brief to the Supreme Court said that the availability of reproductive health care, including abortion care, is critical to attracting women to the services and retaining them.
“Put simply, lack of access to reproductive health care, including abortion care, and the real prospect of being forced to take unwanted or unsafe pregnancies to term, only makes the military less attractive to today’s recruitment-age females,” they wrote. . . . . (Read more on Military.com)