Gen. James McConville, the Army’s Chief of Staff, said in an interview that the Army will consider recruits’ request to not be stationed in states with pro-life laws in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson, which returned authority over abortion law to the states.
McConville was asked about soldiers’ ability to avoid being stationed in states that restrict abortion. “We do have options where a soldier can say, ‘Hey, I want to serve in Alaska,’ and if we can meet those preferences, we will actually do that. But as far as, ‘I’m only going to serve in these states’ or ‘I’m going to do that’…it’s a contract….You could say, ‘I’d like to go to one of these places’ and, if we can make it work, we’ll try to make it work for them,” he replied.
While it does mean that the Army will consider the requests, his remarks will likely disappoint abortion advocates and others. The Army had been considering changing its “compassionate reassignment policy” to allow soldiers to transfer from states with supposedly discriminatory laws.
When asked if a soldier could transfer based on socio-political preferences, McConville responded, “We try to make sure that we’re taking care of soldiers, and at the same time if we can meet their preferences while taking care of them, of where they might want to serve, and [if] we have a job that meets their skill set, then that’s certainly a consideration.”
As the Army faces challenges meeting its recruiting goals, some have pushed for women to refuse to join the military if they can’t refuse posts in pro-life states. McConville is aware, replying, “I hope that they consider joining the military. I have two sons and a daughter that serve, and I think it’s a great opportunity for everyone’s sons and daughters to have an opportunity to get world-class training, to work with world-class people, and it’s the world’s greatest health club.”
Gil Cisneros, the Pentagon’s chief of personnel and readiness, indicated that officials are worried about the effect of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs ruling on recruiting. “We have concerns that some service members may choose to leave the military altogether because they may be stationed in states with restrictive reproductive health laws,” Cisneros stated.
Military recruiting and retention faces other threats besides abortion law, McConville said. The biggest threat is that “only 23 percent of Americans are qualified,” he stated, while also emphasizing, “We’re not going to lower standards. To me, quality is more important than quantity.” He noted that young people are failing the entrance test and fitness requirements. Recently the number of those passing the military’s Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test has dropped from two-thirds to one-third.
Moreover, the military is currently punishing or kicking out servicemembers who refuse to take the COVID vaccine for religious or medical reasons. The Navy, as an example, has separated more than 1,200 active duty and reserve sailors for not getting vaccinated, despite the fact that a top admiral has stated under oath that he is “unaware” of any cases where unvaccinated sailors or Navy Seals have negatively impacted Navy operations.
The abortion issue has also factored into discussions about where the military will locate its bases. In looking for where to move the Space Force’s Space Training and Readiness Command (STARCOM), some have claimed that abortion could and should play a role, including Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo. Before leaving office, former President Donald Trump advocated for the base to be moved to Huntsville, Alabama, which is already home to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and is known as “Rocket City U.S.A.” Some, however, have speculated that Alabama’s limitation on abortion could cause the state to lose STARCOM.
Rose Riley, spokeswoman for the Department of the Air Force, which is over the Space Force, didn’t directly address abortion when discussing the decision. “The Department of the Air Force is conducting site surveys at each candidate location to determine which is best suited to host STARCOM based on factors related to mission, infrastructure capacity, environmental considerations, cost, child care, housing affordability and access to military/veteran support. Air Force leaders are working closely with the Office of the Secretary of Defense to review the impact on the force of the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Dobbs.”
Florida Congressman Rep. Matt Gaetz, R, has signaled concern over the military’s consideration of socio-political factors in making base decisions. “While the official party line is ‘we are advocating for our troops,’ it would seem these policies may have a more nefarious objective: siphoning military personnel, equipment and the money and jobs that come with them from Red states to Blue states,” Gaetz wrote.
The military is not the only agency getting involved in abortion politics. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently announced that it would allow female veterans and veteran dependents to have abortions even in states with restrictions. The Army itself is subject to the Hyde Amendment, which blocks the use of public funding of abortion, but after the Supreme Court’s ruling this June, announced that it would allow women to have abortions in the case of rape or incest or if the mother’s life was in danger.
The truth behind all of this is that the military is virtue signaling. Officials might say they may have been considering such policies and that a servicemember’s views on abortion may be a tertiary factor, but the military isn’t going to let pro-abortion considerations, or any sociopolitical view, be a real determinant for where it stations its soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines. It simply isn’t realistic.
Now, the military has long allowed servicemembers to put in a request for their preferred duty station, but those servicemembers cannot control where they are located. That is nothing new. The idea that there would be any special consideration based on a state’s abortion law is ludicrous.
If the Army stationed soldiers based on their desire to be in a pro-abortion state, would the same consideration then be given to those soldiers who want to be located in a state that outlaws abortion?
And if the military starts stationing servicemembers in the U.S. based on their pro-abortion views, will that policy extend overseas? Will pro-abortion servicemembers be able to decline serving in Germany, for example, where the U.S. has 21 military bases and where abortion is restricted to 12 weeks’ gestation and is only allowed after the pregnant woman receives a consultation and adheres to a three-day waiting period. How about in Iraq, where abortion is not only illegal but where women who have an abortion can be imprisoned for up to a year?
Will the military next allow servicemembers to protest duty stations based on LGBT laws? For example, major U.S. ally Japan, home to 23 U.S. military bases, doesn’t allow same-sex marriage, while Kuwait, home to 8 U.S. military bases, criminally prosecutes homosexual acts between males.
The politicization of the military has hindered our nation’s security and troop morale and it will only get worse if the military allows servicemembers to put their own political beliefs above duty.
The military has one mission: to defend national security and win wars. Members of the military make a commitment to serve their country and they must be willing to give the last full measure. To do so requires extreme self-discipline and dedication in matters both professional and personal. If the military is making operational decisions based on the fact that one of its servicemembers expects to have an unplanned pregnancy in the future that will need to take care of at an abortion clinic, then the military is going to invite severe issues of demoralization and disunity in the ranks.
As the military mulls whether pro-life laws will lead to recruiting problems, it is failing to consider that its surrender to wokeness, along with its COVID vaccination requirements, are already contributing to its challenges in retaining its best and most experienced servicemembers and attracting qualified new ones.
John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” Our servicemembers are expected to willingly place their lives in harm’s way for others. That is part of the foundation of our military — that a brave person would sacrifice themselves for their fellow Americans to uphold their freedoms and to stand in the gap for those under attack.
Endorsing abortion undermines the character of our nation’s armed forces. In contrast to the military code that embraces the virtue of laying down one’s life for the cause of defending and protecting the vulnerable, abortion takes the life of a defenseless baby. The armed services should stay out of the business of promoting the killing of Americans and stay focused on its mission of protecting them.
Ready to dive deeper into the intersection of faith and policy? Head over to our Theology of Politics series page where we’ve published several long-form pieces that will help Christians navigate where their faith should direct them on political issues.