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Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) departs after casting a Senate vote, at the U.S. Capitol, in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, October 25, 2023. (Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

After blocking nearly 400 military promotions in nine months over a Pentagon policy on abortion, Alabama Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville is falsely claiming the Department of Defense could allow abortion care “after birth.”

On Friday, Tuberville, a Senate Armed Services Committee member, told right-wing pundit Kimberly Guilfoyle that he’s holding up the military promotions because he’s “trying to protect the American taxpayer from having to pay for anything to do with abortion.”

Under Pentagon policy, service members who need to leave their home state to receive abortion care or fertility treatments can be reimbursed for their travel expenses. The Pentagon also gives military members three weeks of leave and the right to have either a spouse or a partner accompany them.

Federal law does not allow abortion care at military treatment facilities except in cases where a pregnant person’s life is at risk or when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.

“It’s been rape, incest or health of the mom,” Tuberville said of the previous policy. “But we asked in one of our hearings, ‘What months are you gonna go by for the abortion?’ They couldn’t tell us whether it was abortion after birth.”

After the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022, the Defense Department began planning what it would do in states with restrictive abortion laws, where about 80,000 active-duty service members who could become pregnant are stationed. Women are the military’s fastest-growing demographic and comprise about 17% of those serving in the armed forces, according to an article published on the department’s official website.

In 2023, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 26, the “Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act.” If approved, the bill would “prohibit a health care practitioner from failing to exercise the proper degree of care in the case of a child who survives an abortion or attempted abortion.”

There’s very little chance the House bill would pass the Democratic-controlled Senate. Still, anti-abortion activists and lawmakers put forth the bill in the hopes of creating a false and stigmatizing narrative around abortion care.

The anti-abortion movement has used the false claim that abortion care is happening “after birth” as a political scare tactic. In 2019, former President Donald Trump tweeted, “The Democrat(ic) position on abortion is now so extreme that they don’t mind executing babies AFTER birth.” Politifact rated that statement false.

In reality, abortion care rarely happens later in pregnancy: 93.1% of abortions happened at fewer than 13 weeks of gestation, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention taken in 2020. Less than 1% of all abortion care takes place after the gestational age of viability, according to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Minnesota’s Democratic Sen. Tina Smith tweeted that Tuberville’s comments were “utter nonsense.”

“Did Kimberly attempt to acquaint Senator Tuberville with the criminal code? Because this is utter nonsense,” Smith said, adding, “But harmful nonsense. Senator Tuberville blocking these promotions is hurting our military.”

On Nov. 10, Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, a member of the Armed Services Subcommittee, sought to push forward several nominees for promotions. Tuberville objected to all of them.

“I’d be willing to talk to him if I thought there was any possibility he would change his ridiculous position on this,” President Joe Biden told CNN in July when asked about Tuberville’s obstruction. “He’s jeopardizing U.S. security with what he’s doing.”

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