The Defense Department undercounted the number of abortions that it authorized between 2016 and 2020, new data shows.

Following a lawsuit from the Oversight Project, a division of The Heritage Foundation, the Department of Defense said that it had identified a total of 77 abortions performed in military medical treatment facilities (MTFs) during the four-year period between 2016 and 2020. (Heritage founded The Daily Signal in 2014.)

That number includes 17 abortions that had previously not been included in the DOD’s figures.

The babies aborted were either the children of a service member or of the service member’s dependents. Eighteen of the abortions were tied to the Air Force, 28 to the Army, four to the Marines, and 27 to the Navy.

In 2021, the DOD authorized 14 abortions of unborn babies throughout the military—bringing the total number of abortions that the DOD authorized between 2016 and 2021 up to 91.

The Defense Department explained the undercounting by saying in a report shared with the Oversight Project that it began updating its methodology counting the abortions it authorizes in 2021.

“As a result, a yearlong effort, involving data analysts and women’s health subject matter experts, began in early 2021 to review and update the methodology for collection of data related to performance of abortions in military medical treatment facilities (MTFs),” the DOD explained. “The updated methodology identified, and corrected, inadvertent underreporting of authorized abortions.”

Some of the DOD’s methodology updates include developing a new definition of abortion: the “termination” of an unborn baby’s life “that would otherwise result in a live birth.” This new definition does not include the removal of ectopic or molar pregnancies, both of which are nonviable pregnancies. It also does not include miscarriages.

The new methodology also included both active-duty members and their dependents (such as their daughters) who aborted their babies at a military medical treatment facility.

The Pentagon is seen from a flight taking off from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on Nov. 29, 2022, in Arlington, Virginia. The Pentagon is the headquarters of the Department of Defense. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

“The methodology utilized for this updated report will be the standard for future reports, in order to ensure consistent methodology and understanding, and will be annually reviewed for new medical or coding updates for processes or procedures,” the report noted. “Additional actions will be identified as necessary to ensure accurate reporting consistent with this methodology.”

The Oversight Project initially sent a Freedom of Information Act request to the DOD a few weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2022 decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in the Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling.

The lawsuit sought information on whether the abortions DOD was authorizing were “Hyde Amendment-compliant ‘covered’ abortions, meaning if they were performed if the life of the mother was at risk or if the unborn child is result of rape or incest,” Oversight senior investigative counsel Roman Jankowski told The Daily Signal.

“We also requested all records regarding the number of ‘covered’ abortions that are the result of an act of rape and incest that resulted in some type of prosecution under the Uniform Code of Military Justice,” he added. “The DOD did not respond to our FOIA request, forcing the Oversight Project to sue in federal court. These records only provide a partial picture of abortions covered by the DOD, and the Oversight Project will continue to update this as additional records are released.”

The DOD did not immediately respond to requests for comment for this article.

In October 2022, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin released a memorandum for senior Pentagon leadership on “ensuring access to reproductive health care.” That memorandum announced that the Defense Department would establish “travel and transportation allowances for service members and their dependents … to facilitate official travel to access non-covered reproductive health care that is unavailable within the local area of a service member’s permanent duty station.”

The move was a direct response to the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the memo said. It claimed that funding abortion travel would be done in accordance with federal law, but Republicans noted at the time that funding travel and transportation to get abortions through the DOD would “in and of itself violate federal law” and contradict the Defense Department’s “past recognition, interpretation, and implementation of this law.”

“Congress has clearly and consistently acted to prevent the U.S. military from funding elective abortion procedures and services necessitated by those procedures, and DOD has acknowledged and complied with the law,” the Republicans said in 2022 in a letter first reported by The Daily Signal. “We are appalled by the flagrant disregard for the law expressed by the Department in this memorandum.”

And DOD spokesman Charlie Dietz confirmed to The Daily Signal in October 2022 that “if the dependent of a service member lives in a state where abortion access is restricted, the DOD will cover their travel and transportation costs to a location where they can legally receive the care.”

Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., blocked hundreds of military promotions for more than 10 months as pushback to the Pentagon policy promoting abortion, saying that until the policy was changed, he would not approve any military promotions, arguing that the policy is illegal and violates the Hyde Amendment. The Hyde Amendment is a measure dating back to the 1970s that prohibits federal taxpayer funding of most abortions. 

The Alabama lawmaker, who received heavy criticism from his Democratic colleagues, ended his holds in December. Tuberville had also come under fire from some GOP senators, who called on him to give up his effort and allow the promotions to move forward despite the Pentagon’s unchanged pro-abortion policy.  

But other leaders, including Ryan Williams, president and publisher of The Claremont Review of Books and of The American Mind; Terry Schilling, president of the American Principles Project; and Kevin Roberts, president of The Heritage Foundation, praised Tuberville for his commitment to stand against the Pentagon’s pro-abortion policy, saying that his hold “on military promotions over the Pentagon’s unjust decision to fund abortion tourism is a righteous manifestation of the Senate’s responsibility to scrutinize military leadership.”