Photo: Mariam Zuhaib/AP
A Republican senator who upheld more than 100 nominations on the Pentagon’s abortion policy claimed, “I will not allow our military to be politicized.”
Tommy Tuberville of Alabama spoke Tuesday at an Armed Services Committee hearing.
The Department of Defense covers the costs and furlough needs of troops who must travel to obtain an abortion, a procedure that allows it in cases of rape or incest, or when the mother’s health is at risk.
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As a protest against this policy announced Last October, Tuberville objected to the expedited processing of more than 150 civilian nominees and senior officer promotions.
Tuberville’s “hold” means that each nomination or promotion must be voted on individually, rather than in time-saving groups.
At Tuesday’s hearing, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said the delay could affect combat readiness.
Citing threats from Russia, China and Iran, the retired general said: “There are a number of things happening around the world that suggest we could be in a competition on any given day.”
“If we don’t approve the recommendations for promotions, there will actually be a ripple effect from the force that will leave us far less ready than we need to be.”
“The effects are cumulative and will affect families. It will affect children who go to school because they cannot change their duty station. It’s a powerful effect and will affect our preparedness.”
Austin said, “I’m really asking you to reconsider and move forward with our nominations. It will make a significant difference for our squad.”
Republicans scored a long-awaited victory last year when the conservative-dominated Supreme Court overturned abortion rights that had been protected for 49 years.
Democrats took up a key campaign issue, but the decision emboldened conservative states to enact draconian bans.
Austin said, “Almost one in five of our troops are women. And they have no chance to choose where they are stationed. As a result, nearly 80,000 of our women are stationed in places where they cannot access uninsured reproductive health care.”
Tuberville said: “Now my colleagues on the left think this abortion issue is good for a campaign and that shouldn’t be the issue here. I will not allow our military to be politicized.”
He also said: “I want to make this clear: my influence has nothing to do with the Supreme Court decision on abortion access. It’s about not forcing this country’s taxpayers to fund abortions.”
On Monday, 36 Senate Democrats and two independents — Vermont’s Bernie Sanders and Maine’s Angus King — sent an open letter to Austin and asked him to stand firm.
“Abortion restrictions and bans only force military members to continue traveling to states that have not restricted abortion,” the senators wrote, “further threatening both the financial security of military personnel and military preparedness.”
“Our military members should not be forced to unnecessarily risk their personal health and safety for routine health care simply because they are committed to protecting and defending our nation.”
On Tuesday, Chuck Schumer, the New York Democrat and Senate Majority Leader, directly rebuked Tuberville. the republican, said Schumerrisked “permanently politicizing military endorsement.
“…I can’t think of a worse time for a [pro-Trump] Republicans to pull off such a stunt while threats to American security and to democracy mount around the world.
“I call on members of his own party to persuade the Alabama Senator to back down from this unprecedented and dangerous move and allow these critical, apolitical, nonpartisan military candidates to pass.”