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Republicans Are Trying to Make 'Abortion Tourism' a Thing

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and his colleagues seem to think that forcing people to travel hundreds of miles for reproductive health care is akin to sightseeing.

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Over the weekend, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) weighed in on the latest abortion-related debate in Congress: whether members of the military should receive support for interstate abortion travel when they’re stationed in a state that has banned it and have an unwanted pregnancy. Under current law, the military reimburses service members for travel costs related to abortion care.

“The military should not be paying for abortion tourism,” Cotton told Fox News Sunday’s Shannon Bream, implying that people who travel for an essential health service are doing so to go sightseeing and not because politicians like Cotton are methodically decimating abortion access throughout the country.

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“Abortion tourism” is a relatively new Republican buzzword in the post-Roe era. After the Supreme Court revoked 50 years of abortion rights last year, enabling a wave of state-level abortion bans, Senate Democrats introduced legislation to establish a federal right to interstate travel for abortion care. Republicans overwhelmingly opposed the bill, prompting senators like Steve Daines of Montana to spin necessary travel for abortions as “abortion tourism”—a term that had been percolating among anti-abortion activists.

Of course, equating a costly journey to seek health care that should be available in one’s state to “tourism” is a pretty ghoulish sentiment—particularly when referring to military service members who don’t have much or any say in where they’re stationed, as Fox’s Bream pointed out.

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“So what should women who are in uniform in a place where they cannot access an abortion because they are there on orders, what should they do?” she asked Cotton. The Arkansas senator replied that if people in the military “want to take that step, they have 30 days of annual leave.”

“It shouldn’t be taxpayer funds giving them three weeks of paid, uncharged leave and then also paying for travel and lodging and meals–something that we don’t even give our troops when they have a parent die, or a sibling die, or a beloved grandparent die,” he continued.

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Cotton’s comments are a continuation of the months-long temper tantrum his colleagues like Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) have been throwing about the Pentagon’s supportive abortion policies. Tuberville’s been refusing to fill key military positions in protest and, ironically, jeopardizing national security in the process. And last week, the Republican-controlled House passed a version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would overturn the Pentagon policy that reimburses service members for travel costs related to abortion care.

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Of course, what these men all mean to say and are just talking around in these insufferable cable news interviews is that they don’t believe anyone should be able to have an abortion, period, whether they’re in the military and receive “taxpayer dollars” to travel to a different state or not. Instead, we will now be subjected to years of nonsensical chat about “abortion tourism.”