Abortion laws reportedly could play role in Space Command relocation decision

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Published Wednesday, May 17, 2023
by Sara Wilson

(Colorado Newsline) President Joe Biden could stop plans to move U.S. Space Command from Colorado to Alabama due to the state's restrictions on abortion, NBC News reported Monday.

Anonymous officials told the outlet that "abortion politics" could be behind the decision to not move the military installation to Huntsville. Alabama has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, banning nearly all abortions with limited exceptions.

That's in contrast to Colorado, where Space Command is currently located, which has robust abortion-access laws in place after lawmakers codified the right to reproductive health care in state statutes last year.

In the final days of his presidency, former President Donald Trump announced that Space Command would move from Peterson Space Force Base in Colorado Springs to Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville. Since then, Colorado officials have worked to convince the Biden administration to keep Space Command in the state or reopen the relocation process.

"Governor Polis and Lieutenant Governor Primavera have long advocated for Space Command to remain in its rightful home in Colorado Springs where it continues to preserve and protect our national security in the space domain while making bold progress towards achieving Full Operational Capability," a spokesperson for Gov. Jared Polis wrote in an email on Tuesday. "The Polis-Primavera administration would welcome any long-overdue decision to keep Space Command in Colorado Springs."

In March, reporting from The Washington Post indicated that the White House and Pentagon feel that moving Space Command could delay full operational capability, and John Suthers, the Republican mayor of Colorado Springs, recounted a conversation he'd had with Trump that indicated the Space Command move was "a political decision."

Two reviews from the Department of Defense's inspector general and the Government Accountability Office found that there was no improper political influence in Trump's decision to move Space Command, though the GAO report noted that the process might not have followed best practices and had an appearance of bias.  There is an ongoing U.S. Air Force review of the matter, which Biden called for last December.

The Department of Defense enacted new policies this year that allow service members to travel for abortions and reproductive health care, and potentially pay for that travel, if the area where they're stationed does not have access.

Colorado leaders who have worked to keep Space Command in the state are encouraged by the NBC report, but they say abortion access is only a small part of the larger argument.

"For over two years I've urged the Biden Administration to reverse Trump's politically motivated decision and keep Space Command in Colorado. This decision should be made in the interest of the national security of the United States. As I said on the Senate floor last week, reproductive freedom is important for our military readiness and national security, and it should be a factor in where we base Space Command. It's time to finish deliberations and keep Space Command where it belongs, in Colorado," Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democrat, said in a statement.

Rep. Doug Lamborn, the Republican who represents the 5th Congressional District, where Peterson Space Force Base is located, said national security is the only compelling reason to keep Space Command in place. That's in line with what the White House told NBC News -- that Alabama's abortion ban was not a factor in the ongoing review of the decision to move Space Command.

"National security is the only factor that should be taken into consideration when determining the permanent location of U.S. Space Command. Space Command is already almost at full operational capability (FOC) in Building 1 at (Peterson Space Force Base), and will reach FOC four to six years faster if it stays where it is. Reaching FOC should be the primary determining factor for this decision given the threats posed by China and Russia. I support efforts to reverse the previous decision based on national security grounds in the best interests of our nation," Lamborn said in a statement.

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