Last fall, President Joe Biden issued an urgent order to the Pentagon. It wasn’t a strategic response to the war raging in Europe or the new Cold War heating up across the Pacific. Instead, he had Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin create special employment benefits (paid leave and travel reimbursements) to help military employees pay for abortions.
The response this outrage elicited on Capitol Hill was not surprising. Despite decades of bipartisan consensus against taxpayer funding of abortions, most congressional Republicans sent out news releases or tweets of disapproval, but without a plan to do anything about it.
Enter Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala.
Last year, Tuberville pledged that if Austin followed through on the president’s plan, he would use his leverage to block approval of Defense Department nominations as a group. (Democrats are still able to process them individually in the Senate.)
Austin ignored the warning. And this spring, Tuberville followed through on his pledge. He has objected to Senate consideration of all military flag and general officer promotions ever since.
Biden calls Tuberville's abortion protest "bizarre"
On Monday, Biden described Tuberville's actions as "bizarre." Austin has said that Tuberville's stand is "irresponsible."
Journalists have reported that Tuberville’s position has left him “isolated” among his colleagues. Several members of Congress who strongly support life have backed their colleague from Alabama, but Republican leadership has chafed at this challenge to the status quo.
When asked whether he supported the senator’s efforts, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “I don’t support putting a hold on military nominations.”
But in the Senate, one person standing for courage and the truth can make a majority. And in this case, Tuberville is right and his critics are wrong.
The Defense Department's new abortion policy is patently illegal. Congress has never authorized special travel reimbursement benefits or paid leave for military personnel’s abortions. It flies in the face of the Hyde Amendment, which has prohibited taxpayer funding of most abortions since 1977.
Outside the fever swamps of the Democratic Party of 2023, it remains very popular: 60% of Americans oppose taxpayer funding of abortion, according to a Marist/Knights of Columbus poll taken in January.
The Biden administration’s justification of its policy change—that taxpayer-funded abortion is essential to military readiness—is laughable. Tanks, aircraft carriers, fighter jets, communications technology, ammunition and training are essential to readiness. That’s why Congress authorizes and funds those things every year.
Congress has not approved taxpayer reimbursements of abortion expenses for military personnel. And for good reason—the American people and their elected representatives oppose the policy.
The fact that Biden has defied the Hyde Amendment to divert money appropriated for national security to advance divisive, culture war politics only affirms Tuberville’s position. Protecting unborn children from taxpayer-funded slaughter is reason enough for all senators, regardless of party, to hold administration nominees.
Biden puts abortion politics ahead of military readiness
Either the president and his Defense secretary sincerely believe that abortion politics is more mission-critical to national security than the readiness programs they are compromising to pay for it, or they don’t believe it and are undermining national security in service to partisan opportunism. In either case, their selections for high military and civilian positions should be ignored by the Senate until sanity and the rule of law are restored to the Pentagon.
Austin and Tuberville are not in a battle of wills. Austin is spending taxpayer money Congress authorized for national defense on partisan political points. The senator is defending the troops, the Constitution and the nation.
The question is not why Tuberville is taking this stand, but why he’s taking it with so few allies. In this crucial and winnable fight to protect all Americans, born and unborn, every pro-life senator should join Tuberville's team.
This piece originally appeared in USA Today