WASHINGTON, D.C. (WWTI) — The Department of Defense has announced efforts to strengthen access to reproductive health care access for service members and their families.

This announcement was made in a memorandum issued by U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III on October 20, which stated that recent developments in the Supreme Court ruling regarding reproductive health care may create “legal and financial risks for health care providers.”

Secretary Austin added in the memorandum that following the Supreme Court’s decision, the DOD “heard concerns from many service members and their families” regarding access to reproductive health care, including abortion services.

To ensure consistency, Secretary Austin directed the DOD to take the followings actions:

  • Ensure additional privacy protections for reproductive health care information, including extending the time servicemembers have to notify commanders of a pregnancy to no later than 20 weeks, unless specific requirements to report sooner are set forth in policy
  • Distribute guidance directing DOD healthcare providers that they may not notify or disclose reproductive health information to commanders, unless overcome by specific exceptions set forth in policy
  • Distribute guidance that directs commanders to display objectivity and discretion when addressing reproductive health care matters

Healthcare providers were also addressed in the memorandum, as Secretary Austin directed the DOD to:

  • Develop a program to reimburse applicable fees for DOD healthcare providers seeking to become licensed in a different state
  • Develop a program to support DOD health care providers who are subject to adverse action for appropriately performing their official duties

Secretary Austin also directed the DOD to establish travel and transportation allowances for service members and their dependents, and amend travel arrangements as necessary, to facilitate travel to access non-covered reproductive health care that is unavailable within the local area.

“I am committed to the Department taking all appropriate action, within its authority and consistent with applicable federal law, as soon as possible to ensure that our Service members and their families can access reproductive health care and our healthcare providers can operate effectively,” Secretary of Defense Austin said in the memorandum.

The full memo is available on the Department of Defense website.