Defense and National Security – Pentagon Lifts Block on Abortion-Related Websites
The Pentagon will lift a long-standing ban and allow military and civilian personnel access to abortion-related websites on agency computers.
We’ll share what the new rule entails, as well as the latest demands for the Biden administration to help release WNBA star Brittney Griner from Russian custody.
It’s Defense and National Security, your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, Capitol Hill and beyond. For The Hill, I’m Ellen Mitchell. A friend sent you this newsletter? Subscribe here.
Pentagon allows access to abortion-related websites
The Department of Defense (DOD) said Wednesday it would stop blocking abortion-related websites from its networks, allowing military and civilian personnel to access the sites on agency computers.
“We are continuously evaluating categorized content that is blocked on DOD networks,” said Pentagon spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Timothy Gorman told The Hill in an emailed statement.
“We have decided that we should allow content classified as abortion-related on health care requirements,” he added.
Why they were previously blocked: Gorman told The Hill that access to these sites was previously restricted due to bandwidth issues.
At all levels“We are currently working across all DOD networks to ensure the restriction is lifted in a consistent manner,” he added. “Additionally, we are updating our broader policy to ensure consistency and access to appropriate information for the DoD workforce.”
The moment: The change, which was first reported by The Military Times, comes as the agency faces tough questions about how it will protect service members seeking abortions after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that guaranteed a constitutional right to abortion.
Federal law prohibits the military from providing the service unless a pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, or if it endangers the life of the parent.
Last Tuesday, Gil Cisneros, undersecretary of defense for personnel and preparedness, issued a memo saying the High Court action would not affect the agency’s ability to provide abortions.
Under pressure: On Friday, Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) led a group of her fellow Democrats in a letter urging Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to protect the abortion rights of service members, especially in states that are on the point of restricting the service.
“Entrusted to you are hundreds of thousands of Department of Defense (DOD) soldiers, dependents, and civilians who have lost access to safe abortions and now face threats of criminal prosecution for seeking these services,” the Democrats wrote.
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Demand to Bring Brittney Griner Home Grows
More than 1,000 black women have signed a letter to President Biden asking the administration to step up efforts to release WNBA star Brittney Griner from Russian custody.
The letter, signed by 1,200 women of all ages and professions, was the work of Win With Black Women, a collective of intergenerational and intersectional black women across the country.
“It’s been over 134 days and in our view it’s only 134 days too long for anyone to be subject to the conditions. [Griner] has been,” said Jotaka Eaddy, founder of Win With Black Women.
A quick reminder: Griner, a Phoenix Mercury center and Olympic gold medalist, was arrested by the Russian Federal Customs Service in February for possession of vaping cartridges containing hash oil, a substance smuggled into Russia. His trial began on July 1.
Who signed the letter: Letter signatories included Bernice King, CEO of The King Center and daughter of Martin Luther King Jr.; Terri Jackson, executive director of the Women’s National Basketball Players Association; and Dawn Staley, Basketball Hall of Famer, three-time Olympic gold medalist and head coach of the South Carolina Gamecocks.
A new emergency: In a statement to The Hill, Jackson said the letter helps the organization “sound the alarm and send a clear message of urgency to the president about our sister.”
“This letter of support for Brittney is a hug from a powerful group of women that strengthens our resolve and keeps us fighting for BG,” Jackson said. “We are not The 144 without her. We need BG to come home now with his family.
The collective’s letter follows Griner’s handwritten July 4 memo to the president requesting a prisoner exchange. In her letter, Griner said she was “terrified” about being in Russia forever.
While Biden officials have said they will do everything possible to bring Griner home, the collective’s letter says its members are “concerned that the rhetoric does not appear to align with the actions taken at this day”.
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ON SALE TOMORROW
- The Center for Presidential and Congressional Studies will host a virtual event on “Defence and the Future of War” at 11 a.m.
- The Wilson Center will hold a conference on “The role of Belarus in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict: from guarantor of security to source of instability”, at 12 p.m.
- The Brookings Institution will host a virtual discussion on “Why Foreign Talent is Critical to National Security,” with former Acting Deputy Secretary of Defense Christine Fox and former Commander of U.S. Central Command Gen. the Joseph Votel retreat, at 1:00 p.m.
- The Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. David Berger, will speak at the Hudson Institute at 1:30 p.m.
WHAT WE READ
That’s all for today. Check out The Hill’s defense and national security pages for the latest coverage. Until tomorrow!
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