National Defense Act Passes With Pro-Abortion Policy Intact

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2024 (NDAA) (H. R. 2670) was the focus of a months-long political struggle over the military’s divisive policies on abortion, homosexuality, transgenderism, and other matters. That struggle is over. On most issues, the liberal side has prevailed.

The Republican-led House of Representatives passed its version of the NDAA on July 14, 2023. The House-passed version of the bill contained a variety of provisions that were designed to stop the leftward drift of the U.S. Armed Forces. However, the Democrat-led Senate passed a different version of the NDAA on July 27, 2023 that omitted many of these provisions. As a result, a conference committee was formed to allow the House and the Senate to negotiate the final bill.

The final version of NDAA contains some policies that conservative New Yorkers will appreciate. Among them are provisions imposing a freeze on the hiring of so-called “diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI)” staff in the Armed Forces and capping the pay of the military’s existing DEI staffers. The NDAA also bans the display of LGBT pride flags at military bases. Other provisions within the NDAA are more controversial, including the temporary extension of a program (known as Section 702) that allows the government to spy on the communications of foreigners.

The biggest problem with the final NDAA is not the language that it includes, but the language that is missing from it. Important conservative provisions contained in the House version of the bill were left out of the final NDAA. One such provision would have forbidden the Armed Forces from providing insurance coverage for cross-sex hormones and so-called “gender reassignment surgeries” for military personnel, and another would have made it unlawful for military bases to host drag shows. Most importantly, a proposed ban on the Biden administration’s policy of providing paid leave and travel reimbursement to servicemembers who visit other states to obtain abortions was removed from the final version of the bill. The omission of this language is deeply disturbing to pro-life Americans.

The NDAA passed the U.S. Senate, 87-13, on December 13, 2023. The following day, the House passed the bill, 310-118. There was bipartisan support and bipartisan opposition to the bill in both houses. New York’s two U.S. senators, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), both voted in favor of the bill. Of New York’s 25 members of the House of Representatives, seventeen—including all 10 of New York’s House Republicans—voted for the NDAA; eight House Democrats voted against it. (To be clear, none of the New York members of the House who voted against the NDAA did so because they were concerned about taxpayer funding of abortion travel; each one is pro-abortion.) President Joe Biden is expected to sign the NDAA into law.

It is disappointing that pro-life members of Congress did not insist upon a ban on travel reimbursement for servicemembers who cross state lines to obtain abortions. The simple fact is this: Some House Republicans—including some New York Republicans—are pro-choice. Furthermore, there is a troubling perception in Washington that being pro-life is a political liability. Republicans who decline, for whatever reason, to take a clear stand for life are likely to disillusion and alienate many of the very voters who voted them into office.