Editorials, Opinion

Mooney supports culture wars over national security

Monday morning, Rep. Alex Mooney proudly sent out a press release announcing his support for Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s months-long, single-handed blockade of hundreds of military promotions over the military’s policy of reimbursing traveling costs for reproductive care received in another state — including abortions.

Tuesday afternoon, Tuberville finally capitulated to bipartisan, nationwide pressure and agreed to allow most military promotions to go through — except the highest-ranking positions, which he will continue to stonewall.

Before we get into why this is both dangerous and stupid, let’s look at the Department of Defense policy in question.

It has long been policy for the DoD’s civilian health benefits program, Tricare, to reimburse active military members and covered dependents for travel and lodging expenses if they have to travel more than 100 miles one way for a doctor-recommended procedure. (As with any coverage provider, what is and isn’t covered by Tricare is more nuanced than we have space to explain here.)

With very limited exceptions, reproductive health care such as fertility treatments and abortions are not covered. The only covered abortions are in the case of rape/incest and saving the life of the mother. The only covered fertility treatments are for severely injured married service members.

In February 2023, the DoD released memos clarifying how the military would cover reproductive health care moving forward: Service members would get up to 21 days of leave (limited to the minimum number of days required for the procedure) to obtain fertility treatments or abortions; expenses for those who must travel to receive either procedure will be reimbursed; service members will have up to 20 weeks to inform their command of a pregnancy, up from the previous two-week requirement.

To be clear: Federal funds are not used to pay for non-covered abortions. The new policy only requires the travel reimbursements be treated the same as any other procedure for which the service member must travel long distances.

Now, on to why all this is stupid.

First, the DoD’s updated policy finally gives reproductive health care the same respect and coverage as other types of health care.  This should be celebrated as a massive step forward both for the women in our military and the women who are married to service members.

Second, we are pro-someone’s-medical-decisions-are-no-one-else’s-business, and so, apparently, are most Americans: Voters have shown their support for abortion access over and over again this past year. The idea that a senator has been holding up hundreds of important military promotions because he wants to exercise control over other people’s private lives is beyond absurd.

Third, Tuberville’s long culture war campaign has handicapped our national security and military readiness. No matter how you personally feel about abortion, it should bother you that one senator not only has the will, but the way to severely limit military functions and has seemed to take great glee in doing so.

Mooney’s support for Tuberville’s antics is a slap in the face to West Virginia’s vast population of veterans, reservists and active military members. Mooney’s actions clearly show that he’d happily handicap our national security if it means he can score some political points to take on the campaign trail.

Putting one’s own personal beliefs above the safety of our country is inexcusable. Voters must make that clear come election day.