“The Biden administration has turned the Department of Defense into an abortion travel agency.”
“Now American taxpayers are on the hook to cover non-chargeable paid time off and travel costs for abortions for our military and their families.”
“Secretary Austin seems to think he can make or change the law without going through Congress.”
WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) spoke on the Senate floor today to defend his pledge to hold all U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) general and flag officer nominations before the U.S. Senate over the department’s new policy of funding travel and paid time off for service members and their dependents seeking an abortion.
In his remarks, Senator Tuberville explained why he believes the DoD’s new policy that expands taxpayer-subsided abortions is illegal.
Excerpts from Senator Tuberville’s remarks can be found below, and his full remarks can be found here.
“Federal law only allows the military to provide abortions in very narrow circumstances: rape, incest, and threat to the life of the mother. Yet, the Biden administration has turned the DoD into an abortion travel agency. They did it using a memo. The Biden administration wants abortion on demand for not just those enlisted in our military, but their family members as well. This would expand the policy to millions of people. Now American taxpayers are on the hook to cover non-chargeable paid time off, and travel costs for abortions for our military and their families.”
“This goes beyond the law. We’ve still got a constitution in this country. And the Constitution is clear: Congress makes the laws, the executive branch enforces the laws. Secretary Austin seems to think he can make or change the law without going through Congress. It would be irresponsible for the United States Senate to allow an administration walk all over the Legislative Branch. Secretary Austin cannot change the law by memo. Congress cannot be replaced by a post on the Department of Defense website.
“In December I warned the department that I would hold their nominees is they tried to force abortion on demand on our military. They did it anyway. The Department knew what the consequences would be. This was their choice. I will continue to hold these nominees until the Department of Defense follows the law — or congress changes the law. In the meantime, we should do our job and vote.”
“If these nominees are so important to the Democrats, then the Democratic Leader can find time to get them on the floor. Frankly I wish Democrats were this concerned about our enlisted servicemembers. We’ve got a recruiting crisis in this country. The Army missed its recruiting goal by 15,000 last year. That’s an entire division. One of the causes of this crisis is the policies of Biden Administration. At yesterday’s Armed Services hearing, I talked about the Navy’s training materials. Many of these materials denigrate religious Americans – who are the majority in this country. Democrats seem a lot more worried about these nominations than about our recruitment — the people who actually fight our wars. If Democrats are so worried about these nominations, then they can bring them up for a vote. We have more than enough time to vote on nominees.”
“I will continue to come down here and lay out these facts for as long as my colleague from Colorado wants to. We talked about this less than a month ago. The facts have not changed. My position has not changed.”
Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization in June 2022, the Department of Defense claimed in a memorandum that the ruling would “have significant implications for…the readiness of the Force,” but provided no evidence to support this conclusion. On July 15, 2022, Senator Tuberville and Republican members of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) sent a letter calling on Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to justify the assertion. The letter went unanswered.
On October 20, 2022, Secretary Austin released another memorandum entitled “Ensuring Access to Reproductive Health Care.” The memo outlined the Department of Defense’s intent to develop policy, procedures, and programs to expand taxpayer-subsided abortion in the military beyond what is currently allowed under federal law.
On November 28, 2022, Senator Tuberville and his Republican SASC colleagues sent an additional letter to Secretary Austin asking him to explain the October memo and the Department of Defense’s justification for the potential expansion of its abortion policy. In the letter, the senators warned, “The Department’s actions send the implicit message to our service members that pregnancy is a liability to the force and our military’s success hinges on access to abortion. This is an egregious mistake.” Again, the letter went unanswered.
The Department of Defense finally scheduled a briefing for Senate offices on November 17, 2022 about the Department’s memorandums and potential policy changes. However, the briefing was abruptly canceled. In response, on December 5, 2022, Senator Tuberville placed a hold on DoD nominations until the Pentagon rescheduled the canceled briefing and responded to questions about the military’s memos on reproductive care.
Within 24 hours, the DoD rescheduled the staff briefing, and it occurred on December 7, 2022. During the rescheduled briefing for members of Senator Tuberville’s staff, Department of Defense officials revealed their intent to announce a new policy that would cover travel and leave for service members and their dependents seeking abortions. Following the briefing, on December 9, 2022, Senator Tuberville notified Secretary Austin that he would place an additional hold on Department of Defense nominees if the Department implemented its abortion plan, which Senator Tuberville believes is illegal.
The department’s authority to fund abortions is governed by 10 U.S.C. 1093, which limits abortions to cases of rape, incest, or pregnancies that threaten the life of the mother. These rules apply to both service members and their spouses and dependents. Given this provision, the Department of Defense has averaged fewer than 20 abortions per year, with 91 abortions at military facilities occurring between 2016 and 2021. According to a third-party study cited by officials, the number of abortions subsidized by the Department of Defense under the new policy could increase to 4,100 annually — 205 times the number of abortions performed in recent years.
Without responding to Senator Tuberville’s pledge, Secretary Austin released another memorandum on February 16, 2023 announcing the formal implementation of the abortion policy to fund travel and paid time off for service members and their dependents seeking an abortion, despite existing law.
On March 8, 2023, Senator Tuberville followed through with his pledge to hold all general and flag officer nominations on the Senate floor. Senator Tuberville’s hold forces the Senate to consider and vote on the nominations by regular order instead of approving them in batches by unanimous consent, which can be considerably faster. The nominations can still be approved by the Senate, but the Majority Leader must make additional time for them to be considered on the floor.
Senator Tommy Tuberville represents Alabama in the United States Senate and is a member of the Senate Armed Services, Agriculture, Veterans’ Affairs, and HELP Committees.