A GOP senator is threatening to place Senate holds on the Defense Department’s civilian and senior military nominations until DOD reverses its “irresponsible” shift on abortion that will facilitate the termination of thousands of pregnancies by service members and their families.
Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., warned Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in a Friday letter that DOD has no authority to follow through on its late October announcement on abortion. That announcement said DOD will subsidize the travel costs of service members who are seeking abortions in other states, now that the Supreme Court has invalided Roe v. Wade and allowed state governments to set their own abortion policies.
The policy is aimed at ensuring service members can access abortions even when they are stationed in states that might put restrictions on the procedure, but Tuberville said the policy goes too far.
“It is my conviction that this proposed policy change is illegal, circumvents Congress, and exceeds your authority,” Tuberville wrote. “Should you implement these proposed changes to the department’s abortion policies, I will place a hold on all future DoD civilian and general/flag officer nominations.”
Earlier this week, Tuberville put a hold on nine of President Biden’s DOD nominees until his office received a briefing on the abortion policy. His Friday letter said that briefing took place Wednesday, but said what he learned about the policy, which DOD plans to implement by the end of the year, cemented his opposition and will mean ongoing holds on DOD nominees until it is lifted.
Tuberville said one of his objections is the sheer number of abortions that DOD will facilitate for service members and their families under the new policy.
“For years, the department has averaged less than 20 abortions per year,” he wrote. “The brief revealed the policy intentions put forth in your October memo, ‘Ensuring Access to Reproductive Health Care,’ would increase DoD-subsidized abortions by as much as 4,100 per year. That estimate does not include dependents, which your policy also intends to cover, who might seek assistance in obtaining an abortion.”
Tuberville warned the DOD policy will give service members access to unrestricted abortions in some states, financed in part by taxpayers.
“This vast expansion of DoD-subsidized abortions is made worse by how your plan will provide unrestricted abortions,” Tuberville wrote. “As six states and the District of Columbia have no abortion restrictions, your policy would force taxpayers to finance access to abortions without protections other states have duly enacted such as waiting periods and prohibitions on late-term abortions.”
“Like me, many Americans find such abortions morally repugnant,” he said.
Tuberville added that DOD officials had no answers on how much its policy change would cost the department.
“When questioned on these issues, the department could not provide analysis or estimates of how this policy change will impact its budget, readiness, and manpower,” he wrote. “It is irresponsible to push forward with such a controversial change to department policy without due diligence on how this will impact the readiness of the force.”