Sen. Tuberville Ends Pro-Life Blockade for Hundreds of Military Appointments

The blockade was a protest against a Department of Defense policy that provides paid leave and reimbursement for travel expenses for service members who seek to obtain an abortion. It also covers travel costs for dependents and spouses.

The Pentagon, headquarters of the Department of Defense
The Pentagon, headquarters of the Department of Defense (photo: DoD photo by Master Sgt. Ken Hammond, U.S. Air Force; public domain)

Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., will allow hundreds of military appointments to get through the Senate as he ends his 10-month-long pro-life blockade that sought to force the Pentagon to change its abortion policies.

The senator began blocking military appointments that need Senate confirmation in February by refusing to allow them to pass via unanimous consent. The blockade was a protest against a Department of Defense policy that provides paid leave and reimbursement for travel expenses for service members who seek to obtain an abortion. It also covers travel costs for dependents and spouses.

Although the policy is still in place, Tuberville announced on Tuesday that he would end his blockade for most appointments — the backlog has grown to more than 400. He said he would only maintain his blockade against a handful of very senior positions. 

“I'm not going to hold the promotions of these people any longer,” Tuberville told reporters, according to CBS News. “We just released them —  about 440 of them. Everybody but 10 or 11 four-stars.”

The military appointments are normally a routine process approved in large blocs by unanimous consent of the Senate. Without unanimous consent, the Senate would have needed to vote on each appointment individually. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., chose to only bring a handful of appointment votes up individually, declining to bypass the blockade of most appointments.

Kristan Hawkins, the president of Students For Life, thanked Tuberville for maintaining the blockade for 10 months in a post on X, which was reposted by the senator.

“We‘re proud of the stand that [Tuberville] took on behalf of the preborn,” Hawkins said. “Every day he stood firm was a message sent to Washington that the lives of America’s preborn are worth defending, even if Joe Biden and his Pentagon don't think so.”

Federal law prohibits Department of Defense funds from being “used to perform abortions except where the life of the mother would be endangered if the fetus were carried to term or in a case in which the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest.”

Even though the law does not expressly prohibit funds for travel expenses or paid leave to obtain an abortion, some Republican lawmakers have argued that such policies violate the statute. Republicans have introduced bills that would expressly prohibit agencies from using funds in this way, but those efforts have been blocked in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

An aerial view of the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., May 11, 2021

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