In a time when military readiness should be a primary focus of the federal government, the Biden administration has instead enacted a controversial policy related to abortion access for service members. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced that service members would receive paid time off and travel reimbursement for undergoing abortions, which has raised legal concerns. Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) is taking action against what he calls an “illegal” policy by holding up defense nominees.
Tuberville firmly believes that if Secretary Austin wants to change the law, he should go through Congress, calling the policy “an illegal expansion of DoD authority and a gross misuse of taxpayer dollars.” The Alabama senator and former Auburn football coach is making good on his promise to hold all DoD civilian, flag, and general officer nominations before the U.S. Senate. His hold forces the Senate to consider and vote on the nominations by regular order, which can be considerably slower.
Tuberville has been vocal about his disapproval of the policy, calling the Biden Department of Defense “an abortion travel agency” and emphasizing that the department knew the consequences of enacting the policy. He will hold these nominees until the Department of Defense follows the law or Congress changes it.
Despite multiple letters and requests from Tuberville and his colleagues on the Armed Services Committee, the DoD leadership has not provided any justification for the policy change. Tensions have arisen between Tuberville and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) over the issue, with Bennet accusing Tuberville’s hold on defense nominees as “unprecedented.”
Tuberville counters Bennet’s claims, pointing to Bennet’s threats to hold up Biden’s nominees over the decision to move the U.S. Space Command from Colorado to Alabama. He also referenced a previous hold by Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) of over 1,000 military promotions.
Bennet has argued that the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade with the Dobbs v. Jackson case would affect military recruitment, suggesting that abortion restrictions contributed to the military’s recruitment and readiness problems. However, Tuberville’s office has highlighted that the DoD has averaged fewer than 20 abortions yearly, and the department has not provided any data supporting Bennet’s claims.
In contrast to Tuberville’s pro-life stance, Bennet’s home state of Colorado is one of the few states allowing unlimited abortions for any reason up until birth without legal limits. This radical policy aligns more with human rights abusers like China and North Korea than the rest of the world.
Tuberville’s unwavering position on the abortion policy issue sheds light on the need for the Department of Defense to prioritize military readiness and adhere to the law. While the debate between Senators Tuberville and Bennet continues, focusing on the recruitment crisis and the well-being of service members should be at the forefront of any policy decisions.