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Military Health System

Reproductive Health: Medical Care

Medical Care

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Reproductive Health Q&A
Q1:

When does the DOD provide abortion services? Who can receive those services?

A:

DOD can perform or pay for abortion services for Service members, dependents, or other eligible DOD beneficiaries in certain circumstances. Consistent with federal law, this care is provided in cases where the life of the mother would be endangered should the fetus be carried to term, or in the case in which the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest (described within DOD as "covered abortions"). Federal law prohibits the DOD from performing, or paying for the performance of, abortions for any other reason.

Q2:

What kinds of abortions can the Military Health System perform?

A:

The Military Health System (MHS) has the capability to perform both medical abortions (which are performed with medication) and surgical abortions, in cases where the life of the mother would be endangered if the fetus were carried to term or in the case in which the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest.

Q3:

What other care does DOD provide when a Service member dependent or other beneficiary receives a covered abortion?

A:

Complete care generally includes an initial diagnosis of pregnancy, counseling regarding pregnancy options, any necessary pre-procedural evaluation, peri-operative care (care provided around the time of a surgical procedure), contraception counseling and provision, screening for sexually transmitted infections, referral for mental health services, and follow-up/post-operative care as required. Sexual Assault Response Coordinators (SARCs) or the Family Advocacy Program (FAP) are notified by a DOD medical provider at an MTF if a patient informs the provider that the patient is a victim of a sexual assault so that the SARC or FAP can inform the victim of services and reporting options. FAP clinicians are required to report suspected child abuse/sexual abuse directly to local civilian child welfare services. There is no requirement that the health care provider inform the SARC or FAP that the patient requested an abortion. Health care provider communications to a SARC or FAP are confidential. As a result, if the patient has made, or desires to make, a Restricted Report, that option is not affected by health care provider notifications to a SARC or FAP.

Q4:

What is the process that a Service member dependent or other beneficiary would use to seek covered abortion services?

A:

DOD performs or pays for abortions for Service members, dependents, or other eligible DOD beneficiaries in cases where the life of the mother would be endangered should the fetus be carried to term or in the case in which the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest (described as "covered abortions". In the case in which a pregnancy is a result of an act of rape or incest, a patient can request an abortion from a military treatment facility (MTF) provider. Patients may seek assistance through a Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC), Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Victim Advocate (SAPR VA) or the Family Advocacy Program (FAP), but may also seek assistance through their primary care manager (PCM), a women's health provider, or at an emergency room. MTFs either have providers who perform abortion services or have the ability to refer patients to an appropriate provider in the private sector or at another MTF. In states where beneficiaries have little to no access to an abortion provider, referral to a local provider in the private sector may not be available. In such cases, the MTF provider's referral may require the beneficiary to travel to a state where abortion care can be provided.

Q5:

Will DOD continue to provide care for ectopic or molar pregnancies including termination of the pregnancy

A:

Yes. DOD will continue to provide necessary medical services to treat ectopic or molar pregnancies. DOD providers at MTFs will continue to provide services as part of their federal duties if medically appropriate, even if those services are restricted or prohibited by state law.

Q6:

Does DOD provide abortion services in the military medical system through MTFs? Or through the private care system?

A:

DOD performs or pays for abortions for Service members, dependents, or other eligible DOD beneficiaries in cases where the life of the mother would be endangered should the fetus be carried to term or in the case in which the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest (described as "covered abortions"). Covered abortions are provided in both MTFs and in the private sector care through TRICARE.

Q7:

Can state law restrict my ability to receive abortion services at a military treatment facility?

A:

DOD performs or pays for abortions for Service members, dependents, or other eligible DOD beneficiaries in cases where the life of the mother would be endangered should the fetus be carried to term or in the case in which the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest (described as "covered abortions"). DOD health care providers' current provision of covered abortions, as well as their provision of contraceptive care and other reproductive health services, continues to be legal and authorized under federal law, and it remains DOD policy to provide such services at MTFs. DOD providers at MTFs may continue to provide such services as part of their federal duties if medically appropriate, even if those services are restricted or prohibited by state law.

Q8:

Will TRICARE continue to provide coverage for abortion services in the case of rape, incest, or when the life of the mother would be endangered?

A:

Yes, TRICARE will continue to pay for abortions for Service members, dependents, or other eligible DOD beneficiaries in cases where the life of the mother would be endangered should the fetus be carried to term or in the case in which the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest (described as "covered abortions". Private sector health care facilities are subject to the laws of the state where the care is provided. When state law restricts certain types of care, that care may no longer be available through private sector health care facilities in the local area.

Q9:

If a Service member and accompanying family members are stationed at an overseas location where abortion is legal will TRICARE coverage extend to an abortion performed by a network provider?

A:

Yes, but only in cases where the life of the mother would be endangered should the fetus be carried to term, or in the case in which the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest (described as "covered abortions". There has been no change in policy or practice related to provision of abortions overseas.

Q10:

If a Service Member, dependent, or beneficiary accesses abortion services outside of the military health care system and requires follow-up care can they access care through DOD?

A:

Yes. Eligible DOD beneficiaries are encouraged to follow-up with their Primary Care Manager or Women's Health Provider following a pregnancy termination to obtain necessary follow-up care, to include convalescent leave (as indicated) or provision of contraception. This follow-up care is available regardless of whether the abortion service was a covered or non-covered procedure. Additionally, if a patient comes to a military hospital or clinic with acute complications following a pregnancy termination, it is the duty of the receiving provider to care for these acute issues. By regulation, active duty service members who experience complications resulting from a non-covered treatment also may be authorized for treatment in the private sector if necessary, consistent with applicable law.

Last Updated: August 16, 2022
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