WASHINGTON (OSV News) -- Pro-life groups pushed back on the White House's support of a Department of Defense policy of providing paid leave and travel reimbursement for service members seeking abortions.
Jeanne Mancini, president of the national March for Life organization, told OSV News July 20 that President Joe Biden "is pushing an illegal scheme to fund travel-related expenses for our military and their family members to obtain abortions, with the administration going so far as to say the Department of Defense has a 'foundational, sacred obligation' to do so."
"In fact, the administration has brazenly used every tool at its disposal to advance its obsessive abortion agenda, showing contempt not only for American taxpayers but especially innocent unborn children and their mothers," Mancini said.
Mary Owens, communications director for Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, told OSV News that "the Biden-Harris administration will stop at nothing, including ignoring federal laws to impose their radical agenda of abortion on demand paid for by taxpayers in every state."
"They have ignored a four decades old law against taxpayer funding for abortion to use taxpayer dollars for abortion travel for service members and their dependents across the country," Owens said. "This policy is not only illegal but uses the Department of Defense to promote the interests of the abortion lobby."
Owens said service members cannot currently get paid travel to go to a parent's funeral, but "if you want to obtain an elective abortion, the department will pay for your travel and lodging."
The DOD provides service members paid bereavement leave in the case of a spouse or a child's death.
"The DOD should be focusing on national security and the needs of all service members, not promoting radical abortion policy," Owens said.
During a July 17 White House press briefing, White House national security spokesman John Kirby was asked why the administration sees abortion as "critical to military readiness."
Kirby argued that since close to one in five service members are women, the possibility of being assigned to a state with restrictive abortion policies may be a deterrent to a volunteer military.
"You go where you're told," Kirby said of those who enlist. "That's the way orders work. You go where you're assigned; you don't get to choose. And so, what happens if you get assigned to a state like Alabama, which has a pretty restrictive abortion law in place, and you're concerned about your reproductive care? What do you do? Do you say 'no' and get out? Well, some people may decide to do that. And what does that mean? That means we lose talent -- important talent."
Kirby's mention of Alabama as an example comes amid administration's criticism of Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., using a Senate procedure to block military promotions in protest of the Pentagon's abortion policy along with criticisms of what he calls the military's "woke politics."
Since March 8, Tuberville has blocked nominations by denying the Senate the ability to confirm nominees through unanimous consent, a procedure in which the Senate considers a matter agreed to if no senator objects. But any one senator can block that process. Such military nominations are generally approved by unanimous consent.
Tuberville has come under criticism from not only the White House and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin for doing so, but also from members of his own party. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has stated he does not support Tuberville's blockade.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., signaled he may allow a vote on an amendment repealing the policy in a bid to get Tuberville to end his blockade, but it is not clear if Tuberville would accept such a deal. His hold on nominations would end as the Alabama senator would not get enough votes to pass such an amendment in the face of the chamber's slim Democratic majority and some Republicans critical of his tactics.
In July 19 remarks on the Senate floor on July 19, Tuberville defended his position, saying, "This is a taxpayer-funded abortion that nobody, I mean, nobody voted for in this building or the other end of the building."
He added, "Democrats say my hold is unprecedented. Well, I will say this: their abortion policy is unprecedented. We are here to make the law, not the Pentagon."
Mancini said, "We applaud Sen. Tuberville for holding the line against this illegal scheme, and for standing up in defense of women and children across the nation."