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GOP Sen blasts Biden admin claiming abortion travel policy is essential to military readiness

Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., is demanding data from the Department of Defense to justify its abortion travel policy's effect on military readiness following the receipt of data showing low usage.

FIRST ON FOX: Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., the ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, is questioning President Biden’s Department of Defense over its abortion travel assistance policies that Secretary Lloyd Austin has previously said are important for force readiness. 

Wicker suggested that recently-revealed data casts doubt on the Biden administration’s justifications for the policies. The Department of Defense has said the abortion travel policy is important for ensuring troop readiness.

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In a letter sent on Monday, the senator requested evidence from the Pentagon on how its abortion travel allowances are necessary for force readiness in the wake of Roe v. Wade’s reversal, as Austin previously claimed.

In a development on Tuesday, the department announced new figures regarding the policy, soon after being asked for comment by Fox News Digital, and one day after Wicker’s letter prompted it to explain new data he obtained through another Senate committee. 

According to Deputy Pentagon press secretary Sabrina Singh, the travel allowance policy was used 12 times from June-December of 2023. The allowances can be used for “non-covered” abortions, but are also approved for other procedures and treatments. The cost to the Pentagon was roughly $40,800, she said. 

While the department offers authorized allowances for travel and transportation assistance, this does not mean that all service members who travel to obtain abortions have requested or received such allowances. 

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In his Monday letter, Wicker noted he received data “indirectly through a different Senate committee,” which showed that the Army recorded “between August 2023 and December 31, 2023, three service members utilized the policy and claimed travel expenses totaling $2,097.”

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The data on abortion policy usage and cost in 2023 was provided to another Senate committee by the Army, per Wicker’s office. It was then forwarded to Wicker. 

“Still, with today’s news, the fact remains: This administration has recklessly politicized the military with this farce of a policy,” said Wicker in a statement to Fox News Digital. “The Department even admitted today that those that use the policy may not have even used it for an abortion. The reality is that access to abortions is not a threat to readiness.”

Wicker recalled Austin’s past claim that the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, returning the issue of abortion to the states, “has impacted access to reproductive health care, with readiness, recruiting and retention implications for the force.”

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In the letter, Wicker slammed the department for providing only “incomplete, evasive, or outright non-answers” when he prompted it on three separate occasions in 2023 for information to justify the abortion policy and how it affects force readiness. 

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He noted that in response to his most recent letter in December, the department focused on fertilization services and avoided discussing the “provision of non-covered abortion services that end the lives of unborn babies.”

Wicker further criticized the department’s response for refusing to provide information on the usage of the policies and the amount of money that was being spent, prompting him to obtain the information elsewhere. He claimed the response, “is contradicted by the Army’s data which clearly provided the number of service members who have claimed reimbursement of travel expenses using the policy.” 

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“That number is essential to best capture the actual readiness impact on the force, if any,” he explained in the Monday letter. 

Wicker additionally requested the department to provide up-to-date data, “in the same form the Army has provided,” on usage of the policy since implementation. 

The senator had also requested “immediate delivery” of this data from the department, noting the other occasions on which it was not provided. 

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