Sailors and Marines who need to go out of state for an abortion will have 21 days to travel and undergo the procedure, according to new Navy guidance published this week.
The Department of the Navy published two memos, signed by Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro, and one NAVADMIN on Feb. 28 detailing the procedure for reporting pregnancy and how to request time off for non-covered reproductive health care.
While abortion falls under non-covered reproductive health care, it also applies to medical care like in vitro fertilization (IVF). Getting an abortion when the mother’s life is at risk or the pregnancy is the result of rape is covered by the federal government.
The new naval guidance follows that of the Department of Defense, which released its own guidance on Feb. 16. The Pentagon put out the new policies after pledging in October 2022 that it would allow service members to travel out of state to get reproductive health care, including abortions, after the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization Supreme Court case overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022.
“The Department of the Navy (DON) is committed to ensuring the health, safety, and well-being of those who serve our country, and their families in an environment of safety, privacy, and respect. Our Sailors, Marines, and their families are often required to travel or relocate their households to meet our staffing, operational, and training requirements,” according to ALNAV 18/23.
Under the guidance, sailors and Marines who are on active-duty for at least 30 days can request administrative leave for non-covered reproductive health care and will not be charged with leave or loss of pay. A sailor or Marine may also accompany a dual-military spouse or dependent who receives care through administrative leave.
Administrative leave can be requested for up to 21 days, according to the ALNAV. If a person ultimately decides to not have an abortion or other non-covered reproductive health care, the sailor or Marine will not be charged for the time off.
“The period of absence will be limited to the minimum number of days essential to receive the required care and travel needed to access the care by the most expeditious means of transportation practicable,” according to the ALNAV. “COs will limit health information required to the minimum amount necessary to ensure eligibility and be reasonably sure the duration of the time authorized meets this criteria.”
Administrative leave does not apply for those who are planning to sell sperm or eggs or for those who are working as surrogates, according to the ALNAV.
Commanding officers are encouraged to grant administrative leave as quickly as possible because of the time-sensitive nature of the care. Leave should also be granted as much as possible unless the leave would harm the mission, according to the guidance. Commanding officers are not allowed to require a service member to see a chaplain or mental health professional before approving or denying a request.
“To the greatest extent practicable, delay in granting an administrative absence should not result in an eligible Service Member being unable to access the non-covered reproductive health care that served as the basis for the administrative absence request,” reads the ALNAV.
Commanding officers will have no more than five days to make a decision about the administrative leave, according to NAVADMIN 58/23. If the leave is denied, sailors have the right to appeal, with decisions made no later than five days after the denial.
NAVADMIN 58/23 lays out how sailors would request administrative absences through the Navy Standard Integrated Personnel System.
Sailors and Marines may also request time off for recovery after leave for non-covered reproductive care if they have a recommendation from a health care provider, according to ALNAV 18/23.