Former Vice President Mike Pence, a contender for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, expressed his support for Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., for his actions in blocking numerous military appointments in response to the Pentagon’s abortion policy, unveiled earlier this year.
“On day one, I’ll direct the Department of Defense to stop using taxpayer dollars to undermine pro-life laws in states around the country,” Pence said in a speech Friday. “Sen. Tommy Tuberville is right, and the Pentagon is wrong.”
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Tuberville’s protest, lasting nearly six months, has resulted in the Senate being unable to approve senior military promotions collectively through bills, making necessary a separate roll call vote for each promotion. The standoff affects over 300 pending promotions, including several military branch chiefs.
Pence believes Tuberville is defending the rights of “tens of millions of pro-life, taxpaying Americans” who are “happy to invest in our national defense” but do not support the military using taxpayer dollars to advance a “liberal social agenda,” according to Fox News.
Army, Marine Corps, and Navy leaders are currently serving in acting capacities due to the Senate’s delay in confirming them, resulting in limitations on their authority.
In its formal plan released in a memorandum, the Pentagon detailed its commitment to funding the travel expenses for service members seeking abortions or accompanying their spouses during pregnancy termination procedures. According to the plan, service members are allowed a window of up to five months, or 20 weeks into their pregnancy, to notify their respective departments and request travel support for abortion-related purposes, according to Fox News.
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The memorandum also specifies that the DOD health care provider will place service members seeking abortions in a temporary medical nondeployable status, without considering their pregnancy status, until they have received the necessary medical care and completed the required recovery period.
The memorandum also mandates that the military branches offer administrative absence to individuals seeking abortions or fertility treatments not covered by military health care providers, ensuring no loss of pay for such individuals.
Pence is among a small group of prominent Republicans who have voiced their support for Tuberville’s actions, even as these protests have faced criticism from members of both political parties and individuals within the military. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell R-Ky, recently criticized Tuberville’s strategy in The Hill.
“I think holding these non-policymaking career military [officials] who can’t be involved in politics at all is a mistake, and we continue to work on that. And I hope at some point we can get it clear,” McConnell said Tuesday.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, in the same report, said that Tuberville’s holds are “paralyzing the Department of Defense.”
“I think that is a national security problem and a national security issue. And I really wish he would reconsider this,” he warned.
Pence is the most vocal anti-abortion advocate on the 2024 campaign trail. He was the first presidential candidate to endorse a 15-week national abortion ban policy and has indicated his openness to the possibility of banning abortion in cases where the fetus is not viable.
“I’m pro-life. I don’t apologize for it,” Pence said in July. “I just have heard so many stories over the years of courageous women and families who were told that their unborn child would not go to term or would not survive. And then they had a healthy pregnancy and a healthy delivery.”
Those inside the military have also criticized the move, saying it impacts national security and may encourage some waiting for promotions to seek jobs outside the military.
“Any claim that holding up the promotions of top officers does not directly damage the military is wrong — plain and simple,” the Army, Navy, and Air Force chiefs wrote in a Washington Post op-ed earlier this month.
Tuberville’s six-month hold on these positions has sparked criticism from Democrats and Republicans. Recent polling among likely Alabama voters shows that most favor their senator dropping his hold on military promotions.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
Jim Thomas ✉
Jim Thomas is a writer based in Indiana. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science, a law degree from U.I.C. Law School, and has practiced law for more than 20 years.
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