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An indefensible Department of Defense

Pentagon abortion policy undermines military readiness

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby speaks to reporters at the White House on June 26. Associated Press/Photo by Susan Walsh

An indefensible Department of Defense

It is a brutal fact of life that wars are measured in body counts. Look up any conflict and you will quickly find information on how many bodies were involved, whether living (“strength”) or dead (“casualties”). These deaths are tragic, but Christian tradition has long held that lethal force is sometimes necessary for the protection of others. At the end of the day, that’s why the military exists: to protect the lives and livelihood of the nation. But the top brass among our nation’s armed forces have forgotten this purpose, deciding that they have a “foundational sacred obligation” to take not only enemy lives but unborn American lives as well.

On Monday, John Kirby, a retired rear admiral serving on the National Security Council, was asked at a White House press briefing why the Biden Administration’s policy to pay for service members’ abortions was critical to “military readiness,” a common talking point Democrats have used in defense of the policy and in criticism of Senator Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., for frustrating their efforts at promotion. Kirby, in response, points to the fact that our military is an all-volunteer force, and says that recruitment has been “tough.” “We want to make sure that they can continue to serve,” Kirby says of the female volunteer service members. “You’re investing your life, your family’s livelihood with us. We owe you that back in return.”

Let me translate: Kirby, our nation’s foremost military strategist within the White House, is saying that because recruitment is difficult, and these women have volunteered their bodies to fight our wars, the government should use its taxpayer dollars to ensure these women don’t remain pregnant. Since they’re investing their bodies to the service of the government, we should invest in their family’s lives by killing the bodies of their unborn children. How’s that for military readiness?

I’ll state the obvious, since apparently it’s not clear to our nation’s biggest military brain: caring for women does not mean ending their pregnancies, but supporting their pregnancies, births, and childrearing. Investing in families does not mean killing their future children, but creating healthy structures within the force that allow for families and children to thrive. Abortion is not only immoral, it also undermines the national interest and specifically “military readiness.”

It’s clear that the Biden Administration’s military policies are for the moment, not for the long-lasting defense of our great nation.

Consider, for example, that the children of military service members are more than twice as likely as the average American to serve in the military when they come of age. Or take Russia, one of the most liberal abortion regimes in the world, whose male population has been devastated by the war it’s perpetrated in Ukraine. In 2021, just a year before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Russia performed 446,000 abortions, which is more than half of the total size of Russia’s active military forces. Yet 20 years ago in 2003, there were 1.8 million estimated abortions in Russia. That’s 1.8 million Russians who were never permitted to be born, who this year would have turned 20, a prime age for fighting in the military. (For context, the United States, also one of the most liberal abortion regimes in the world, performed 1.25 million abortions in 2003 and more than half a million in 2021.)

Kirby’s assertion that lack of abortion access undermines the military readiness of an all-volunteer force is not only blatantly wrong, it’s also embarrassing evidence that our military strategists are short-sighted in their defense strategies for our national security. It’s clear that the Biden Administration’s military policies are for the moment, not for the long-lasting defense of our great nation.

Kirby ends by saying that providing abortions for female service members is “just the right darn thing to do.” Respectfully, Mr. Kirby, abortion is the killing of American people and is morally wrong. But not only that: abortion undermines military readiness. At an even more fundamental level, abortion undermines human dignity and, if human dignity is gone, why fight for anything?

Katelyn Walls Shelton

Katelyn Walls Shelton is a Bioethics Fellow at the Paul Ramsey Institute. She is a women’s health policy consultant who previously worked to promote the well-being of women and the unborn at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. She graduated from Yale Divinity School and Union University and lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband, John, and their three children.


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