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Arkansas governor asks Biden administration to rescind Pentagon abortion policy

Arkansas Gov.-elect Sarah Huckabee Sanders is introduced with husband Bryan, and children Scarlett, George, and Huck on the steps of the Arkansas Capitol Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023, in Little Rock, Ark.
Will Newton
Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders supports a cornel who resigned over the Pentagons abortion policy.

Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders asked the federal government Tuesday to rescind a Department of Defense policy regarding abortion that she said led an Arkansas Air National Guard leader to resign.

The Department of Defense reimburses members of the military for interstate travel related to abortion. In a letter to President Joe Biden and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Sanders said Col. Dillon Patterson of the 188th Wing of the Arkansas Air National Guard resigned Dec. 18 due to religious objections to this policy, The Daily Caller first reported.

Col. Dillon Patterson (Courtesy of 118th Wing, Arkansas Air National Guard)

“Even with Biden’s DoD falling far short of its recruitment goals, he’s chasing off qualified service members with his unconscionable abortion mandate,” Sanders said Tuesday on X (formerly Twitter). “I’m calling on the President to put national security before far-left policy goals and stop punishing soldiers for their faith.”

According to the DOD website, “travel and transportation allowances may be authorized when access to non-covered reproductive health care services is not available within the local area” where a service member is stationed.

Sanders is not the first elected Republican to protest the Department of Defense’s abortion policies. U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama spent months in 2023 blocking the promotions of several four-star military nominees, relenting in December after the Biden administration repeatedly declined to change its stance.

U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Alabama (Andrew Harnik-Pool/Getty Images)

Roughly 80,000 active-duty female service members are stationed in states where legislatures enacted full or partial bans following the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, according to a RAND analysis.

Arkansas was one of several states in which abortion automatically became illegal, with a narrow exception to save the pregnant person’s life, due to an existing “trigger law” activated by the high court’s decision.

In Sanders’ letter to Biden and Lloyd, she called abortion “a barbaric practice” and the Department of Defense policy “irresponsible and shortsighted.” She noted that the Air National Guard fell short of its 2023 recruiting goals by 40%.

“Col. Patterson’s only fault was being a man of conviction led by senior Department of Defense leadership who had disregarded his service and abandoned his most fundamental constitutional rights in favor of more fashionable political and social experiments,” Sanders wrote.

Patterson took command of the 188th Wing in June, roughly four months after the Pentagon’s abortion policy was announced.

Tess Vrbin is a reporter with the nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization Arkansas Advocate. It is part of the States Newsroom which is supported by grants and a coalition of readers and donors.