In a Sunday interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Nikki Haley agreed with Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) on his position against the Pentagon’s relatively progressive abortion coverage policy—while also criticizing his controversial approach to fighting the policy by blocking promotions for military leaders. The policy in question covers abortion-related travel costs and allows up to three weeks of leave for service members stationed in states where abortion is banned. The comments from Haley, who’s currently vying for the Republican presidential nomination, reflect her usual both-sides posturing, even as there really aren’t two legitimate sides to this.
Tuberville’s blockade on the Senate Armed Services Committee over the last six months has been criticized by both Republican leaders and top figures in the U.S. military, and even regarded by some as a threat to national security. But in Haley’s mind, the real party at fault is the Department of Defense for enacting the policy on its own rather than putting it through a vote in Congress, which… doesn’t make any sense. The Department of Defense can craft its own policies, and though they are sometimes challenged in court, there’s nothing backhanded about the military offering to help service members stationed in states that ban abortion.
Haley—who’s laughably tried to frame herself as a moderate on abortion through her oh-so courageous position that abortion patients shouldn’t be executed—argued that the military “never should have done” its abortion-supportive policy. “We have three branches of government for a reason. You can’t slip something in there like that and think that Congress is not gonna be upset. So, first, I’ll put an end to that and you’ll handle it through the proper channels,” Haley said, even as the proper channels are… literally the Pentagon, which has the authority to enact internal policies. She explained, “I disagree with it and I’ll put an end to it as president. You have to go through Congress.”
While no one’s access to abortion care should depend on their employer, of all the employers that should cover some of the costs associated with abortion care, it certainly makes sense for the military to do so. In February, when the Department of Defense announced its coverage policy, it pointed out that service members “do not control where they are stationed”—including on multiple military bases in states like Alabama and West Virginia where abortion is banned—and “due to the nature of military service, [members] are frequently required to travel or move to meet operational requirements.”
Haley, always one for ineffectual bothsideisms, did acknowledge that Tuberville’s antics in holding up military promotions have the effect of using military families as “political pawns” and called his behavior a “mistake.” Still, she was firm in her position that the real problem is the U.S. military’s bare minimum act of human decency.
As for the confirmation process for military leaders’ promotions, Haley suggested that promotions should each require a full Senate vote, which Tapper pointed out would result in highly politicized stalemates. Currently, military members are promoted through a standard unanimous vote of consent procedure that doesn’t require individual voting by all senators. As of this week, Tuberville has blocked over 300 military promotions, including a candidate who would be the first woman to run the U.S. Navy last month.
“Let’s call it like we see it. [The] Department of Defense started this. I’m not saying Sen. Tuberville is right in doing this because I don’t want to use them as pawns,” Haley said. “But if you love our military, if you are so adamant about it, then go and make Congress—Republicans and Democrats—have to go through person-by-person.”
All in all, Haley’s stance on this matter is a perfect encapsulation of her politics. She’s perpetually striving toward some nonexistent, useless idea of a “middle ground”—in this case, that the Department of Defense and Tuberville are both wrong, but DoD is… more wrong??—when the simple reality is that if someone’s job forces them to live in a state where abortion is banned, of-fucking-course their employer should help them access care elsewhere.