July 14, 2023

I’m tired of my Senate colleague threatening national security

The people who would be most hurt are our lowest ranking service members and their families.

Source: MSNBC


For months now, thanks to one man who has never served in uniform a day in his life, the United States Senate has been failing our troops and military families.

In March, Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., began blocking all senior Department of Defense nominations, protesting a Defense Department policy that helps service members stationed in anti-choice states travel for basic reproductive care. With that decision, my Republican colleague effectively told the country that his own anti-choice agenda was worth jeopardizing our military readiness and our national security.

Since that day, Tuberville’s partisan charade has stalled roughly 250 military promotions. And as of this week, his stunt has left the United States Marine Corps without a commandant for the first time since before World War I.

This ploy is shameful and disgraceful; misogynistic and sadistic; self-interested yet self-defeating. In other words, it’s a perfect snapshot of today’s GOP.

Let me be very clear: the Defense Department is not funding abortions. It simply allows service members reimbursement for travel if they are forced to make their way to a state with less draconian reproductive policies. There, they can receive a range of health care services, from IVF to, yes, legal abortions. 

Yet Sen. Tuberville has decided to obscure these facts, making it seem as if the Department of Defense is actually bankrolling abortions. He’s injected politics into what should be an entirely nonpartisan promotions process, as his extremist stance on women’s rights blocks talented nominees from taking on the challenges of their next positions, leaves critical gaps in our military leadership and impairs our military readiness. 

Sen. Tuberville isn’t doing this out of concern over the qualifications of the nominees. No. He’s endangering our national security because he’s so anxious to earn a pat on the back from Fox News that he’d throw a fit over a policy that, in this post-Dobbs world, preserves military women’s rights to bodily autonomy. He’s not alone: on Thursday the House voted almost entirely on partisan lines to rescind the Pentagon policy.

The GOP’s tantrum over this Defense Department rule redefines the word hypocrisy. I served in the Army, so I know firsthand that Republicans were just fine with me using my body as I saw fit — when I chose to use it to fight wars on our country’s behalf. They were even OK with me leaving parts of it strewn across a battlefield in Iraq in defense of this great nation. Many thanked me for my service — for making that incredibly personal choice about my own life. I know the same is true for other female service members and veterans, too.

So my question is, precisely when do anti-choice folks like Tuberville think that we military women no longer have that basic human right to make our own decisions about our own health?  

Because that’s what he’s saying with this blockade — and if he’s successful in overturning the Defense Department‘s decree, thousands of service members could be stripped of their right to bodily autonomy just because they’ve sworn an oath to defend their country.

It’s outrageous that so many of the same so-called leaders who applaud these women for putting themselves in harm’s way overseas want to claim control over those women’s bodies when they’re back on U.S. soil. And it’s astounding that these elected officials seem ignorant to the hypocrisy laden in the notion that the greatest democracy in the world — a nation borne out of a fight against governmental overreach — would strip away the right to personal freedom from the very citizens who’ve dedicated their lives to protecting others’ freedoms.

The people who would be most hurt here are our lowest ranking service members and their families. The higher-ranking members —like other more well-off members of our society — will have the personal resources to travel. These younger folks do not. They are the ones forced to ask for a pass from their sergeants to leave their base to take care of their health care needs. They are the ones at risk. The ones we’d be abandoning if the senator gets his way.

With this stance, Sen. Tuberville is saying loud and clear that he either doesn’t understand or doesn’t care about the very real effects that service members could face if they can’t access reproductive care; that he doesn’t believe that the readiness of female troops affects our military’s readiness; that at a time when the military already faces a massive recruiting challenge, he cares more about currying favor with the most fringe parts of his base than promoting the message that the Armed Forces takes care of those who sign up to serve.

At this point, my colleague has been given multiple off-ramps to help him end this block. He’s simply refused to lift his hold. So just as I made my own decision about my own body when I signed up to fly Black Hawks in Iraq, I’m making the choice today to use my voice to say “enough.”

We must not allow Republicans score political points by restricting the personal freedom of those who risk everything to defend that most fundamental, most American ideal. And we cannot deny patriots who voluntarily serve our country the promotions they’ve earned just because one man who never wore our nation’s colors has decided to try to influence policy through extortion, rather than legislation. It’s long past time for Sen. Tuberville to end this charade and prove that he actually cares about the strength of our military and the freedoms that have defined this nation.

By:  U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL)