Fight over abortion, transgender treatments heats up ahead of defense spending vote

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With the annual military budget package soon to hit the House and Senate floors, the fight over military spending on abortion and transgender treatments is heating up in Congress.

The bill, known as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), is a “must pass” spending bill that sets the military budget each year.

This year, lawmakers have filed more than 1,500 amendments to the NDAA, according to the House Committee on Rules website.

One amendment filed by Republican Rep. Ronny Jackson of Texas would force the military to end its program of offering paid leave to service members and reimbursing them to obtain abortions.

Another amendment filed by Rep. Matt Rosendale, R-Montana, would prohibit the military from furnishing sex reassignment surgeries and gender hormone treatments for transgender individuals. 

Since both House and Senate Armed Services committees passed their versions of the over $800 billion NDAA, amendments will soon be debated on the House and Senate floors.

“Over the last few years under the Biden administration the military has been used as their own little social experiment, they’ve pushed everything they can from their social agenda,” said Jackson on a Tuesday edition of Family Research Council’s “Washington Watch” with Tony Perkins.

“Whether it was CRT, DEI, whether it was transgender issues, the Green New Deal and all the money they’re spending on that, the transgender issue and abortion, they pushed all this stuff,” Jackson said.  

Under a policy laid out by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, the military has been granting paid leave and subsidizing service members’ travel to obtain abortions.

“It’s against the law to use money in the DOD to pay for abortions, so this is just a complete disregard for the law,” Jackson said. “So, what we’re doing is putting in an amendment into the NDAA to specify in no uncertain terms that money in the DOD will not be used to provide abortion services, it will not happen.”

Rosendale explained his amendment in a Wednesday tweet, saying: “Anything that does not contribute to making our military the most effective fighting force on earth is a distraction, and we should not lose sight of that obligation.”

Transgender and gender-identity treatments began to be subsidized by the military under the Biden administration, something many other Republican politicians have vowed to undo.

For many members of Congress, most notably the House Freedom Caucus, of which Jackson and Rosendale are both members, the military ending its abortion and transgender policies has become a nonnegotiable to passing the NDAA.

However, there is also significant pressure from Democrats to continue these policies begun under the Biden administration.

The New Democrat Coalition, consisting of nearly 100 House members, issued a statement on Tuesday urging House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to deny the Freedom Caucus’ demands and instead “work with responsible members of both parties and join us in supporting our brave troops and ensuring our national security.” 

“As the House prepares to consider the Fiscal Year 2024 NDAA, Speaker McCarthy must choose between caving to the most extreme elements of his party that seek to compromise our national defense or working with sensible lawmakers to support all of our troops,” the New Democrats statement said. “Each year, the NDAA passes with overwhelming bipartisan majorities, and this year should be no different.” 

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