Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., at right, walks toward the Senate Chamber on Sept. 21, 2023.

Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., at right, walks toward the Senate Chamber on Sept. 21, 2023. (Carlos Bongioanni/Stars and Stripes)

(Tribune News Service) — The Defense Department policy that has caused Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R- Ala., to hold up more than 350 military promotions since mid-February costs only $1 million a year, according to an analysis published Friday in a medical journal.

The policy reimburses service members for travel-related expenses for abortions if the procedure is illegal where they are stationed.

In the Journal of the American Medical Association, public health experts Benjamin Rader, Yulin Hswen and Neil K. R. Sehgal estimated the policy costs the Pentagon $1 million annually.

The authors said 63,000 active duty servicewomen of reproductive age live in states where abortions are either illegal or do not have local access to facilities that provide the procedure, according to ABC News.

Extrapolating abortion rates in the general population, the authors estimated between 700 and 900 servicewomen travel more than 50 minutes to obtain an abortion annually.

But that figure may be an overestimation, the authors cautioned, because abortion rates are generally lower among the military population compared to the general population.

The $1 million estimated cost represents about .02 percent of the Military Health System’s $50 billion budget in 2023, ABC News noted.

Tuberville is not objecting to the policy because of its cost, however.

The senator has blocked more than 350 military promotions because he maintains the policy is illegal and can only be made through Congress.

Tuberville’s blockade was temporarily broken in September to promote Gen. C.Q. Brown to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Eric M. Smith to lead the Marines and Gen. Randy George as Army chief of staff.

The impasse was sidestepped again last week to confirm Adm. Lisa Franchetti as the first woman to lead the Navy.

Alabama’s senior senator evaded Republican criticism over his holds until last week, when Sens. Dan Sullivan of Alaska and Joni Ernst of Iowa attempted to advance the nominations.

Amid the growing anger from several of Tuberville’s colleagues, Sullivan said he was frustrated with Tuberville’s tactics, and claimed America’s adversaries were delighting in the gridlock caused by his colleague.

“By the way, [Chinese President] Xi Jinping is watching this right now, going, ‘I can’t believe they’re not letting these guys command. I’m scared to death of subs.’ He’s loving this. So is [Russian President Vladimir] Putin. They’re loving it,” Sullivan said on the Senate floor. “How dumb can we be, man?”

But Tuberville objected to his colleagues’ attempts to move the nominations through unanimous consent and the promotions were blocked.

On Thursday, Sen. Tim Kaine, D- Va., again tried to move the nominations forward but was stifled by Tuberville.

Meanwhile, Democrats are making another attempt to circumvent the holds.

The Senate Rules Committee has scheduled a hearing for Tuesday to discuss a resolution to allow all of the nominations to be approved en masse.

©2023 Advance Local Media LLC.


Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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