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Pentagon ends blocking of abortion-related sites on computer networks


The Pentagon has quietly lifted a long -standing ban preventing troops and civilians from searching for abortion -related terms on the department’s computer networks, a move that follows a landmark Supreme Court decision. to reverse Roe v. Wade last month.

The department banned abortion -related content, as well as other topics, under a policy that began in 2010, “to increase available bandwidth for mission purposes,” a Pentagon spokesman said. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Tim Gorman said in an email Tuesday to the Military Times.

Such a sea change in what the department’s more than 3 million users can access on their computers came after POLITICO reported on May 3 that the court was set to overturn Roe, but before that released the opinion on June 24.

“We determined in early June that we needed to fully allow the issue to be categorized as abortion (to be accessed by DOD networks) based on the health care aspects relevant to the category, “said Gorman. He added that the department continues to evaluate the content categories that are blocked by the department’s networks.

The Military Times began asking about the policy last month after a military official said he was trying to access the non-profit Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America sites on his government computer to get information for his troops and receive a blocked notification.

Gorman did not provide answers to follow-up questions.

The department’s chief information officer, John Sherman, “ordered that the issue related to access to abortion services should not be blocked and that this change is currently continuing in DOD organizations,” added Gorman. “In addition, the DoD CIO reviewed the overall policy on changing internet access on various sites and topics related to access to health care and other issues for appropriateness. updates. “

Officials did not respond to requests for comment about the date of the policy change or other prohibited categories.

The officer who asked not to be identified told the Military Times that he was blocked from accessing the Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America websites as he sought information from his troops about the abortion ban after six weeks.

“I think those sent (troops) or those without access to the personal internet will not be notified,” he said.

The officer said he was “shocked” when the areas appeared to be blocked, and that his troops had questions about what the reversal of Roe v. Wade, “especially those formerly assigned to Mississippi.”

Mississippi lawmakers passed a law banning most abortions and the state is home to at least six military bases.

The officer and other military sources who Googled “abortion” on their work computers for the Military Times reported last week that some sites were not blocked. However, the official said not accessing Planned Parenthood or NARAL Pro-Choice America gave him a break.

“All DoD officials said they will do everything they can to make sure we have the information we need on the new judgments and laws,” the official said.

Gorman said in a follow-up statement to the Military Times that the department is working “across all DOD networks today to ensure the ban is lifted equally.”

While the Pentagon seeks to protect its uniformed and civilian employees from prosecution after the fall of Roe v. Wade, the officer said he has heard concerns from his troops nonetheless.

“They can be placed in these states that don’t allow abortions, and they have to ask for COs’ permission, pay for travel, take their limited vacation, and be sentenced to order, ”the official said. “And then even from men who are afraid of their daughters and wives being forced to move with them to places like Texas.”

A friend’s wife, the official said, was “afraid” of being placed where she had no access to services, such as Planned Parenthood.

DOD’s removal of abortion searches from its networks comes as the Pentagon tries to parse what Roe’s turn means for troops and families.

And while the decision of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization reversing the Roe precedent has not changed anything about the legality of getting abortions covered by military health insurance, it raises questions about their availability and further efforts to ensure legal abortion may include.

“I am committed to taking care of our people and ensuring the readiness and resilience of our forces,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement on June 24, the day Roe was dismissed. “The Department carefully reviewed this decision and reviewed our policies to ensure we continue to provide smooth access to reproductive health care permitted by federal law.”

Geoff is a senior staff reporter for the Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He has covered Iraq and Afghanistan and was most recently a reporter for the Chicago Tribune. He accepts any tips at geoffz@militarytimes.com.



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