White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby on Monday robustly backed the Pentagon’s policy to reimburse travel costs for service members or spouses who need to go to another state for reproductive care if their duty station’s state has restrictive abortion policies.

A reporter asked Kirby at a White House briefing to explain the administration’s claim that the DOD policy supports military readiness.

“I had a chance a couple of weeks ago to meet with some military spouses here at the White House,” Kirby said, according to a White House transcript. “Some were active-duty members. Some were spouses. All were women. And to a one, they told me that abortion laws in this country that are now being passed are absolutely having an effect on their willingness to continue serving in uniform or to encourage — or discourage, in this case — their spouses from continuing service. So, if you don’t think there’s going to be a retention and a morale issue, think again. Because it’s already having that effect.”

Kirby also said the policy is important for building up the all-volunteer force.

“It can have an extremely, extremely significant impact on our recruiting and retention,” he said. “Not to mention, it’s just the right darn thing to do for people that raise their hand and agree to serve.”

The House’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act, passed last week on a mostly party-line vote, called for a reversal of the DOD policy. Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) is protesting the abortion policy by holding up hundreds of DOD confirmations and promotions.

File photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Brittany A. Chase