On July 21, we provided a short synopsis of the effects of the Dobbs decision. In the 7 weeks since that time, there have been new actions by voters, state legislatures, and the federal government.
On August 2, the electorate of Kansas turned out in unexpected numbers to reject an effort to amend the states constitution to make it possible to outlaw abortion in the state. Despite being seen as a conservative state by most observers, 59% of Kansas voters turned out to oppose the change. As a result, abortions up to 20 weeks continue to be accessible in the state. With one of the largest bases of the US Army, Fort Riley, in the state as well as Fort Leavenworth and McConnell Air Force Base, this vote maintained reproductive access for over 23,000 active duty service people plus their families. On Labor Day, National Public Radio reported that reproductive rights providers in Kansas were reporting that 2/3 of those they were seeing were residents of neighboring states with many of those coming from Texas.
On the 25th of August, the Texas trigger law came into force. The law makes performing an abortion, but specifically not having an abortion, a felony potentially punishable by life in prison. The only exception recognized to the ban is if there is a threat to the life of the pregnant person. This addition to the existing prohibitions on reproductive care directly affects the nearly 120,000 active duty service people in the state (2021 number). Total bans on access also exist in three of the four states that border Texas. Only New Mexico allows access and only Fort Bliss (38,500 active duty) is near to the shared border. The other fourteen facilities will require significant travel out of state access reproductive services.
In response to these changes and the Dobbs decision, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced a clarification of its policies on providing abortion access. With most options limited by the Hyde Amendment and other restrictions, the VA announced that it would provide abortions at all of its facilities in order to protect the life and health of veterans regardless of existing state restrictions. The new rule is consistent with the previous declaration that the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act required provision of abortions in emergency situations regardless of state law. While the EMTLA doesnt apply to VA facilities, their new policy is consistent with the provisions of that law and continues the efforts of the Department of Defense and Veterans Administration to respond to the continually changing environment.