The Defense Department policy which Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) opposes and has used to blockade hundreds of military promotions costs the government just $1 million annually, according to analysis published Friday in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
The $1 million JAMA says the military is shelling out for paid leave and travel reimbursement to service members for reproductive health care, including abortion, makes up a mere 0.008% of the current $816.7 billion military budget.
JAMA found a significant shift in service members’ access to reproductive health care following the Supreme Court’s June 2022 ruling that overturned Roe v Wade, handing power to legislate abortion over to the states.
It was following that Supreme Court decision that the Pentagon announced the leave and travel policies related to reproductive health care.
Following the Court’s ruling, the estimated average travel time by train or car to the nearest abortion facility went from around 40 minutes to roughly 227 minutes, or nearly four hours, according to JAMA.
In Texas, which houses 15 military bases, travel time went from 40 minutes to eight hours.
The study estimated that around 63,000 active duty servicewomen of reproductive age live in states with abortion bans or do not have access to local abortion facilities. Based on general population abortion rates, it estimated that between around 700 and 900 of those servicewomen might travel more than 50 minutes for an abortion each year.
Tuberville has so far blocked more than 370 military nominations amid his demand that the government stop paying for service members to travel across state lines to obtain abortions. The number could grow to 650 by the end of December if the Senate continues as-is.
One Senator on the Senate Armed Services Committee—in this case, Tuberville—is able to hold up potentially countless military promotions through a Senate procedure called “unanimous consent.”
On Thursday,Tuberville objected one by one to individual military promotions, sparking frustrated bemusement in Democrats on the committee, though even his fellow Republicans have grown increasingly desperate to find a solution, with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) accusing Tuberville of “doing great damage to our military.”
Under that growing pressure from his fellow Republicans and despite his continued objections, Tuberville said this week he said he was reviewing options to “start moving forward”—a marked change from last week when he said there was “zero chance” he would lift the military holds.
Republicans have suggested they might try to persuade Tuberville to only hold up civilian Defense Department nominations rather than active military members’ promotions.