National Security Council spokesman John Kirby launched an impassioned defense of abortion funding for service members and their families on Monday, pounding the podium of the White House press briefing room as he called military access to abortion a ‘foundational, sacred obligation.’
The instance occurred when Kirby was asked by a reporter during the daily White House press briefing, what about the Pentagon’s controversial policy for it to use taxpayer funds to reimburse the cost of travel and care related to abortions was ‘critical to military readiness.’
‘Our policies, whether they’re diversity, inclusion, and equity or whether they’re about transgender individuals who qualify physically and mentally, deserve to be able to [serve] with dignity. Or whether it’s about female service members – one in five – or female family members being able to count on the kinds of health care and reproductive care specifically that they need to serve,’ Kirby said.
‘That is a foundational, sacred obligation of military leaders across the river. I’ve seen it myself. And it matters because it says we’re invested in you, because you are being willing to invest in us. You’re investing your life, your family’s livelihood with us. We owe you that back in return,’ he said.
Kirby argued that anyone who signs up to serve – and potentially lose their lives while serving – has ‘every right’ to expect the military to ‘take care’ of them, regardless of ‘who you are, who you love, or how you worship or don’t.’
He described meeting an all female group of service members and spouses who he said told him that abortion restrictions being passed in states across the country were ‘absolutely having an effect on their willingness to continue serving in uniform or to encourage or discourage, in this case, their spouses from continuing service.’
‘So if you don’t think there’s going to be a retention and a morale issue, think again, because it’s already having that effect,’ Kirby said, adding that he has a son and son-in-law currently serving in the Navy who love serving, but don’t get to serve where they choose and have to follow orders on where to go and what to do.
‘You go where you’re told. That’s the way orders work. You go where you’re assigned. You don’t get to choose. And so what happens if you get assigned to a state like Alabama, which has a pretty restrictive abortion law in place, and you’re concerned about your reproductive care, what do you do? Do you say no and get out?’ he said.
Kirby said service members being faced with that option and choosing to leave meant the military was losing talent and making an already tough recruiting environment worse.
‘It can have an extremely, extremely significant impact on our recruiting and retention. Not to mention it’s just the right darn thing to do for people that raise their hand and agree to serve in the military,’ he added.
Kirby’s comments come as the debate over military funding for abortions continues to be waged in Congress, with Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., holding firm to his commitment to block all top military promotions and nominations as long as the Pentagon’s abortion policy remains in place.