Members of the U.S. Senate and the Department of Defense (DOD) continue to defend the DOD policy, funding travel expenses and time off for service members who travel for an abortion, despite very few taking advantage of the option.

For months, U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Auburn) has blocked DOD nominees from being confirmed for their positions.

According to reports, the policy offers female soldiers up to three weeks of administrative leave and transportation allowances to receive abortions in different states. 

In October 2022, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin sent a memo decrying the overturning of Roe v. Wade in the Supreme Court decision of Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization. The memo directed DOD officials to "ensure that service members and their families can access reproductive health care and to support Department of Defense health care providers concerned about potential risks while providing federally authorized care." Austin went on to say Dobbs decision would have "significant implications" for military readiness.

The VA released its rule in September 2022 and said it would begin offering abortions to service members and certain dependents, regardless of the individual state's law.

Federal lawmakers, the DOD and Pentagon officials have repeatedly claimed that Tuberville's holds negatively impact military readiness. Tuberville rejects those claims vehemently, saying the nominees are already doing their jobs in an interim capacity and could be brought to the Senate floor by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). Thus far, Schumer has not brought nominees to the floor for confirmation.

RELATED: Tuberville pushes back against criticism of military holds – 'I don't feel any pressure at all'

According to Politico, the Pentagon confirmed that only 12 people have taken advantage of the new DOD policy since its inception.

After the revelation, Senate Armed Services Committee ranking Republican Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) sent a letter to Austin, asking him to confirm the number of women who have taken advantage of the policy.

Wicker also asked for clarification if the policy could apply to late-term abortions and if Austin still supported his assertion that the policy is necessary for military readiness and recruiting.

"To date we have yet to receive any substantive data to support these assertions," Wicker wrote. "I now ask again for the specific data that leads the Department of Defense to make the above claim."

In response to the Pentagon's announcement, a spokesman for Tuberville told Politico, "[T]he Pentagon's claims about the policy being critically necessary to recruiting … are factually baseless, and they can drop the policy. This cuts both ways."

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