U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Auburn) is putting a pause on the Secretary of Defense's agenda until he justifies his claim that lack of abortion access could affect military readiness.
In October, 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.
"Since the Supreme Court's decision, we have heard concerns from many of our Service members and their families about the complexity and the uncertainty that they now face in accessing reproductive health care, including abortion services," Austin said in an October statement.
He added, "... In my judgment, such effects qualify as unusual, extraordinary, hardship, or emergency circumstances for Service members and their dependents and will interfere with our ability to recruit, retain, and maintain the readiness of a highly qualified force."
The memo also said it would allow pregnant servicewomen to take leave to travel out of state for an abortion if they cannot legally have the procedure in the state where they are stationed.
According to Tuberville, he and other members of the U.S. Senate tried to get clarification from Austin to no avail.
"I joined a group of senators to call on Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to explain how the Dobbs decision impacts military readiness. We still, today, have not received an explanation or even data to back the claim, and the Department of Defense abruptly canceled their own briefing on the issue minutes before it was set to begin in November," Tuberville said in a Wednesday media call.
In response to the canceled briefing and continued lack of answers, Tuberville sent a letter to Austin on Monday, saying he would be putting a hold on all Department of Defense (DoD) appointments until an explanation of the claims was given, and the briefing was rescheduled.
Tuberville's actions are significant because he is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, responsible for voting on DoD nominees. Nominees require unanimous consent from the committee for confirmation of their positions.
At least nine senior Defense Department nominees are awaiting a confirmation vote.
"Less than 24 hours after I informed Secretary Austin, the Department of Defense reached out to my office to reschedule the briefing on the matter that [it] previously canceled without explanation," Tuberville concluded. "When the DoD becomes sidetracked by politics, its ability to win wars and deter emerging threats only suffers. The department's focus should always be on our national defense and not on going around federal law to facilitate abortions."
No date was given for the rescheduled briefing, and the DoD has not released a statement on Tuberville's ultimatum.
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