WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) today announced his intent to place a hold on all future U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) civilian and general flag officer nominees should the department choose to move forward with a planned policy change to fund travel and paid time off for service members and their dependents seeking an abortion. The announcement from Senator Tuberville comes in response to his office being briefed by Department of Defense officials on the policy change earlier in the week. By covering travel expenses and paid time off, Senator Tuberville believes the DoD is blatantly flouting the law.
In a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Senator Tuberville wrote, “On Wednesday, 7 December, my staff received a brief from the (acting) Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs and learned that you plan to implement these changes by year’s end. The brief also revealed estimates of how your plan will expand the number of abortions subsidized by the DoD. The estimates are as exponential as they are immoral.”
“This vast expansion of DoD-subsidized abortions is made worse by how your plan will provide unrestricted access to abortion…” he continued. “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. It is irresponsible to push forward with such a controversial change to department policy without thorough due diligence on how this will impact the readiness of the force.”
Read Senator Tuberville’s full letter here.
Senator Tuberville joined his Republican colleagues in a letter to U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in July of this year asking for clarification on a Department of Defense (DoD) memo from June 28th claiming that the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade would impact military readiness. They sent another letter on November 21st after a memo, authored by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and released on October 20th, expressed the department’s intent to expand the existing abortion policy. The department scheduled a briefing to Congress on the memos, but the briefing was abruptly cancelled without explanation.
On December 5th, Senator Tuberville placed a hold on DoD nominations until the DoD rescheduled the cancelled 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 7th.
During the rescheduled briefing, for members of Senator Tuberville’s staff, the department revealed its intent to announce a new policy by the end of the year that would cover travel and leave for service members and their dependents seeking abortions. 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 families (spouses and dependents). Given this provision, the DoD has averaged less than 20 abortions per year, with 91 abortions at DoD facilities occurring between 2016–2021.
The department’s new policy will subsidize non-covered abortions by funding travel and leave to states with more permissive abortion laws. This leave would be in addition to a service member’s existing leave. While the department has not produced information regarding expected cost to the taxpayers or percentage of individuals they estimate would be seeking abortion services, the DoD cited a RAND study which indicated up to 4,100 abortions could be conducted annually under the new policy. This estimate did not include family members.
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.