Defense Dept. Spokesman: Funding Abortion Is ‘Foundational Sacred Obligation’
Pentagon Spokesman John Kirby on Monday called paying for abortions a “foundational, sacred obligation of military leaders,” throwing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) policies and paying for gender reassignment surgeries in the same category. The remarks were obviously rehearsed and formed part of a three-minute response to a reporter’s question, “Why is the new DOD [Department of Defense] policy on abortion critical to military readiness?” Kirby’s speech never answered that question, but it does provide insight into the worldview motivating the DOD to persist in illegally funding abortions against all common sense.
In March, the DOD adopted a new policy providing abortions for all servicemembers in all cases (it was previously allowed only in cases of rape, incest, or if the mother’s life was at risk). The agency changed this policy without congressional authorization and in spite of federal law that prohibits the use of DOD funds or facilities for abortions with limited exceptions. After several warnings not to implement the illegal policy went unheeded, Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) began holding up military promotions for high-ranking officers, and he has maintained his courageous stand against heavy pressure to back down from the media, Democrats, and even some Republicans. The DOD claimed that this new abortion policy was critical to military readiness, but it has never offered a compelling rationale to support that claim.
The obvious answer to the question, “Why is the new DOD policy on abortion critical to military readiness?” is that pregnant servicemembers can’t be deployed, so the military can get more work out of them by helping them to kill their unborn children. But that truthful answer exposes the Pentagon’s policy for what it really is — heartless and cruel — so, when he was asked the question directly, Kirby had to find another response. Fortunately, he had been practicing a generic, two-part defense of the military’s new abortion policy in front of the mirror every morning: 1) providing abortions shows loyalty to servicemembers, and 2) providing abortions boosts military retention. The first argument is a moral one, and the second is practical, but neither contributes to readiness.
Regarding the first argument, Kirby said:
“One in five members of the U.S. military are women — 20%. We’re an all-volunteer force. No one’s forcing you to sign up and go. People volunteer to go. People raise their right hand and say, ‘I’m going to do this, for a few years or even for my life. And it might cost [me] my life to do this.’ And when you sign up, you make that contract, you have every right to expect that the organization — in this case, the military — is going to take care of you, and they’re going to take care of your family, and they’re going to make sure that you can serve with dignity and respect, no matter who you are, who you love, or how you worship or don’t.
“And our policies, whether they are diversity, inclusion, and equity, or whether they’re about transgender individuals who qualify, physically and mentally, to service, to be able to do it with dignity, or whether it is about female service members — one in five — or female family members being able to count on the kinds of healthcare, and reproductive care specifically, that they need to serve, that is a foundational, sacred obligation of military leaders across the river.
“And 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.
“… 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.”
Most Americans would agree that the U.S. military owes loyalty to soldiers and their families who put their lives on the line to defend our country. Serving in the military is inherently a hard job, and treating servicemembers well is both fair and a necessary incentive to make it also a desirable career. The same principle animates time-delayed military benefits, such as pensions, Veterans Administration medical care, the G.I. Bill, and more. But that obligation does not and should not justify benefits that are illegal and immoral.
Despite Kirby’s clever misdirection, the core of his argument is not the uncontroversial contention that the military should care for its own, but the novel claim that the military has a “foundational, sacred obligation” to fund abortions for servicemembers and their families. Attached to each word is a claim as false as it should be offensive.
For starters, Kirby claims the military has an “obligation” to provide abortions. That not only violates federal law and flouts congressional authorization, but it was simply invented out of thin air only months ago. More than that, it’s downright offensive to say that the U.S. military has an “obligation” to kill unborn babies, the children of its servicemembers, in order to make the military ready for combat. Does the U.S. military have an obligation to take innocent lives? Does it have an obligation to kill civilians — children, even — in some gruesome, pre-combat blood ritual? That is what Kirby seems to be suggesting.
Kirby also claims that providing abortions-on-demand to servicemembers is a “foundational” obligation of the military. As a matter of historical fact, this is indefensible. The military did not carry out abortions at all until relatively recently, and expanded its abortion policy only months ago. But more than that, women were not allowed in combat roles — the roles which effected the military’s “foundational” purpose — until 2013, and abortions are not carried out on men. The only sense in which Kirby can claim the military is built on a foundation of abortion is if woke operatives have mined out the military’s old foundation and erected an abortion shrine in the deep dark recesses thereby created.
Alternatively, Kirby could have meant that abortion was a “foundational” obligation because it is a “fundamental” right. But the Constitution (including the Bill of Rights) never once mentions abortion, and Congress has never recognized it as a fundamental right. While some Supreme Court opinions have invented a right to an abortion, the Supreme Court in Dobbs more recently overruled those opinions, declaring them to be bad law. In fact, the DOD adopted its new abortion policy in direct response to the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision and subsequent state actions — in other words, once the theory of a “right” to an abortion had lost all pretense of recognition in U.S. law. In effect, the U.S. military is recognizing a right that the U.S. government does not. What do you call a democracy where the military overrules the elected branches of government at will?
Most concerning, Kirby claimed the military had a “sacred” obligation to provide abortion. “Sacred” is a word to describe things that have to do with religion. To date, the Satanic Temple is the only self-identified “religion” that has claimed a religious right to abortion. Not that Kirby understands the Satanic motivation behind abortion (Satan works subtly and “disguises himself as an angel of light,” 2 Corinthians 11:14), but it is curious that he would use the religious word “sacred” to describe something he understands to be entirely secular.
If pressed on the meaning of “sacred,” Kirby would likely clarify that abortion — he would probably insist on the euphemism “reproductive rights” — is an inviolable part of “women’s rights” or “women’s health.” These too are euphemisms, adopted to make palatable (nay, mainstream) the egalitarian notions of radical feminism and the sexual revolution, which insist that women ought to have the same right as men to consequence-free sexual promiscuity. (The same ideologies also insist that the gentler sex deserves to die on the frontlines rather than enjoy shelter and protection, thus propelling women into combat roles.)
But in tracing the ideology to which abortion is “sacred,” we also discover a full-fledged religion to which abortion proponents adhere. It might go by different names and adapt itself to different sensibilities — indeed, its consumer-driven adaptability is its primary strength in the modern world — but it is a real religion nonetheless. It has a god (self), an ethic (live your truth), a metaphysical worldview (nihilism), a church (the education system), evangelists (abortion activists), a holiness movement (wokeness), an end-times vision (total equality and uninhibited rights), and even excommunication (cancel culture). From the sexual revolution to the transgender movement, this mash-up religion has gained cultural purchase under the guise of supposedly neutral secularism, but it has all the marks and functions of an actual religion — a religion that has established itself in our governmental institutions.
By his orchestrated use of the word “sacred” DOD spokesman Kirby inadvertently tipped his hand to let us know what this religion holds sacred. First and foremost, abortion is sacred; that is one key pillar of the sexual revolution, after all. Secondly, gender transition procedures are sacred; that is the logical outworking of a logic that authorizes individuals to define their own truth according to their feelings and act accordingly. Thirdly, DEI trainings are sacred; they are the woke equivalent of Bible studies.
The only question under this interpretation is why, if the people controlling the U.S. military hold this mongrel faith, did they not roll out such an abortion policy years earlier? To my mind, the best answer is that they preferred to duck the political backlash, and Roe v. Wade gave them cover. With the overturning of Roe, their agenda was forced into the open.
Viewing the Pentagon’s abortion policy as the outworking of a religion does help to explain the Biden administration’s stubborn recalcitrance on the subject. Said Biden last Thursday, “I’d be willing to talk to him [Tuberville] if I thought there was any possibility he would change his ridiculous position on this. He’s jeopardizing U.S. security with what he’s doing.” But Tuberville has made it clear he will end his hold on flag officer promotions as soon as the Pentagon ends its illegal abortion policy. To the extent that U.S. security has been jeopardized over the kerfuffle, it is because the DOD was given a choice between illegally funding abortion and promoting flag officers, and it chose abortion.
The same goes for Democrats in Congress, who have discharged every weapon in their arsenal at the House Republican-passed National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) over provisions that stipulate the military should not wage woke culture wars. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) complained that Republicans “hijacked” the NDAA to “jam their extreme right-wing ideology down the throats of the American people.” Un-hijacking the NDAA from an extreme left-wing ideology is now indistinguishable from hijacking to the extreme right; neutrality is not only unacceptable, it is impossible. Jeffries could well have said, “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters” (Matthew 12:30).
Kirby also made a second point, that funding abortion boosts retention:
“I had a chance a couple weeks ago to meet with some military spouses here at the White House. Some were active-duty members, some were spouses, all were women. And, to a one, they told me that abortion laws in this country that are now being passed are 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 there’s going to be a retention and a morale issue, think again. Because it’s already having that effect.
“I have a son in the Navy. I think you all know that. A son-in-law, too. They’re both stationed down in Norfolk on destroyers. They’re proud to keep serving their country in the Navy. But, you know, the Navy told them where to go. 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? Well, some people may decide to do that. And what does that mean? That means we lose talent, important talent. And we’re, again, an all-volunteer force. Recruiting is tough enough as it is, with a very strong economy out there. We want to keep the people that we get, and we want to make sure they can continue to serve. So, it can have an extremely, extremely significant impact on our recruiting and our retention.”
Two personal anecdotes woven in on a single point — this must be a prepared spiel. The first, while brilliantly empathic, is merely a tautology. When we invited pro-abortion women in the military or with spouses in the military to the White House, lo and behold they all supported abortion!
The second personal anecdote is nearly irrelevant to his actual point: if a woman is stationed on a military base in a pro-life state and wants to abort her unborn baby, she will have to choose between staying in the military and the abortion. First, this is false; she could still obtain an abortion if she were willing to pay for travel and expenses. Tuberville himself made this point, “This [his hold] is not about abortion. This is about taxpayer-funded abortion that Congress NEVER authorized.”
Second, Kirby dramatized this question into a major factor in military retention. But is it? Granting his hypothetical for the sake of argument, how many military families are seeking to abort a child? The category of “military spouses” presumes a two-parent family, and that family is likely a multi-generational military family, as nearly 80% of recruits have a family member who has served. Government-provided housing and cheap commissary prices reduce economic instability. The picture here is a stable, probably conservative-leaning family that is unlikely to choose abortion as a preferred option.
As to Kirby’s repeated statistic that 20% of servicemembers are female, many are married in the same stable circumstances described above. Of those who are single, some volunteered for the military because they like the life, others because they want to break glass ceilings. How many would really choose to leave the military rather than carry their child to term — even if they then put their child up for adoption? How many women in the military would want to protect their country less after they had a child to fight for?
For most of its history, the benefits that the U.S. military provided to servicemembers did not include abortion-on-demand, free sex change procedures, or DEI training. Suddenly, these controversial add-ons — many of them only achieved by stuffing them inside must-pass funding bills or with no authorization at all — became a “foundational, sacred obligation” for the military to provide. There is no sound policy rationale for this, despite attempts to create one. They are simply the result of a self-worshipping ideology, which is essentially a religion, that has laid deep roots in our governmental institutions and must be uprooted.
Joshua Arnold is a staff writer at The Washington Stand.