Alabama Senator Tuberville Digs In Heels Against Biden’s Taxpayer-Funded Pentagon Abortion Travel

The Republican senator is delaying approval of some military promotions, to focus attention on a policy that could exponentially increase the number of abortions subsidized by the Department of Defense.

Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) questions witnesses during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on Jan. 11, 2022, in Washington, D.C.
Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) questions witnesses during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on Jan. 11, 2022, in Washington, D.C. (photo: Shawn Thew / Pool / Getty Images)

For the past few weeks, Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama has been taking a stand against the Department of Defense’s new policy of paying for elective abortion-related travel by placing a hold on over 180 military promotions, meaning that they will be slowed down for approval one-by-one rather than in batches by unanimous consent.

The Department of Defense announced in February that “travel and transportation allowances may be authorized for Service members and dependents to travel to access non-covered reproductive health care” when “access to non-covered reproductive health care services is not available within the local area of the member’s permanent duty station, temporary duty location, or the last location the dependent was transported on Government orders. The non-covered reproductive health care is at the Service member’s expense.”

Sen. Tuberville’s office pointed out, “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.” His office cited a study by the RAND Corporation showing that the number of abortions subsidized by the Department of Defense under the new policy could massively increase from fewer than 20 per year to 4,100.

A January Marist poll found in January that 60% of Americans oppose using tax dollars for abortion services domestically, and 78% oppose funding abortion services abroad.

In a recent Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Sen. Tuberville said his hold on the nominations is “about not forcing the taxpayers of this country to fund abortion.” 

Sen. Tuberville told Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in the hearing Tuesday that Austin had “the American taxpayer on the hook to pay for travel and time off for elective abortions and you did not make this [policy] with anybody in this room or Congress taking a vote.” 

Austin responded by telling Tuberville he would like him “to reconsider and allow our nominations to move forward” because “it will make a significant difference for our force.”

“Almost one in five of our troops are women and they don’t get a chance to choose where they’re stationed so almost 80,000 of our women are stationed in places where they don’t have access to non-covered reproductive healthcare,” he said. “This policy is based on strong legal ground. It is not a law, it is a policy, and so we obviously don’t pass laws at the Department of Defense — but again, I assure that we have great respect for this body Congress.”

Earlier in the exchange, Tuberville pointed out that service members for decades have been stationed in countries with strict limitations on abortion like Poland, where abortion has been illegal since 1993 with some exceptions, without the need for a policy authorizing taxpayer-funded abortion travel. 

Austin said in his remarks Tuesday that “not approving the recommendations for promotions actually creates a ripple effect through the force that makes us far less ready than we need to be” and “the effects are cumulative and it will affect families. It will affect kids going to schools because they won’t be able to change their duty station.” 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., spoke against Sen. Tuberville on the Senate floor Thursday, accusing him of “blatantly ignoring many warnings about the harm he is causing to our national security” and saying his hold on nominations was “causing havoc in the military.”

He called on Tuberville’s fellow Republicans “to prevail on the senator from Alabama to stand down in this unprecedented and dangerous move and allow these critical, nonpolitical, nonpartisan military nominees to go through.”

Referencing these complaints at the hearing on Tuesday, Tuberville pointed out that “these are promotions that the majority leader can bring to the floor at any time.” 

And many of Sen. Tuberville’s Republican colleagues in the Senate back his stance, despite some questioning his hold on the promotion process. 

“I think he’s right in his concern for what the department is doing because we have never agreed to fund abortions in the past,” Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., told The Hill Wednesday, “and on this particular case, it’s a pretty fine line when you’re funding to get them someplace to get an abortion.” He called it “a worthwhile fight” on Tuberville’s part.

Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., told The Hill that Tuberville was “right to draw attention” to the issue, but “now we have to look at a path that would produce a positive outcome, and I’m not sure we have one yet.”

Sen. Roger Marshall, R-KS, told Townhall that “the Biden Administration is exploiting the United States military to pursue their radical abortion agenda. Republicans must hold the line.”

“Sen. Tuberville is standing up for what is right,” Marshall added, “and I am proud to support him in his efforts against this illegal policy."