Why Tuberville Caved on the Pentagon’s Abortion Policy

The two parties played “chicken” on the military culture war, and Republicans lost — for now.

Written by Hudson Crozier

What happened: Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville ended much of his months-long blockade of military nominations in the Senate, which he used to pressure the Pentagon to end its policy of funding abortion-related travel for employees. The Senate quickly confirmed more than 400 nominees, leaving a few top positions Tuberville is still stalling.

The inside story: Senate Democrats proposed a rule change that would have allowed them to override Tuberville’s holds. The GOP had the numbers to keep the blockade going indefinitely, but several Republicans threatened to help Democrats, accusing Tuberville of threatening national security. Tuberville then chose to give up some of his leverage rather than all of it.

Why it matters: The nine-month gridlock tested which of the two parties would be more stubborn on the core issue of the culture war: abortion policy. Senate Republicans chose pro-military over pro-life priorities, a move that pleases the Washington establishment but disappoints the GOP’s socially conservative base.

  • The outrage: Tuberville and other conservatives argued the Pentagon’s unprecedented policy is illegal under the Hyde Amendment, a decades-old bipartisan law that broadly prohibits taxpayer funding for abortion.

  • Doubling down: Nevertheless, the Biden administration declared in July that subsidizing abortion is “a foundational sacred obligation of military leaders.”

What’s next: The powerful conservative think tank Heritage Foundation is pressuring House Republicans not to pass the next defense bill without ending the Pentagon’s abortion policy.