Former Vice President Mike Pence – and candidate for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination – said he commends U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., for blocking hundreds of military appointments in response to the Pentagon’s controversial abortion policy announced earlier this year.
At a town hall hosted by NewsNation in Chicago Wednesday night, Pence was asked by the host if Tuberville should stand down as his position on the matter faces criticism by former secretaries of defense.
The former veep, who is staunchly against abortion, responded clearly with, “No. The Pentagon should stand down.”
Adding that he is pro-life and he “[doesn’t] apologize for it,” Pence went on to question why taxpayer dollars are being used to “undermine pro-life laws in states around the country.” He said the idea that generals at the Pentagon on a “liberal Democrat agenda” are using the money to undermine state laws “is just wrong.”
“I commend Sen. Tuberville, and rather than asking him to stand down, I’d ask the Pentagon to stand down,” Pence said. “I promise you, if I’m President of the United States, we’re going to get all this woke business out of the Pentagon.”
The Pentagon’s formal plan, which was released on Feb. 16, revealed it would pay for the travel of service members who seek an abortion or want to accompany a spouse who is seeking to terminate their pregnancy. It said troops would have up to five months, or 20 weeks into their pregnancy, to notify their departments and request travel for an abortion.
“The DOD health care provider will place the service member considering pregnancy termination in a medical temporary nondeployable status without reference to the service member’s pregnancy status, until appropriate medical care and the necessary recovery period are complete,” the memorandum stated.
The memo also directs the military branches to grant administrative absence – which includes no loss of pay – for those seeking abortion or fertility treatments not covered by military health care providers.
Pence continued to criticize the policy by saying, if elected, he would ensure that the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff focus on the US military’s mission, “which is preparedness and ensuring that they can defend this nation and defend our interests around the world.”
He added that Tuberville is defending the rights of “tens of millions of pro-life, taxpaying Americans” who are “happy to invest in our national defense” but do not support the military using taxpayer dollars to advance a “liberal social agenda.”
When asked what his response would be if a Democratic senator held up military promotions to advance a “woke” agenda, Pence said he would take it to the American people and “see what they think about that.”
The approval of military nominations and promotions is historically a bipartisan duty of the U.S. Senate, but Tuberville’s blanket hold shattered the norm, prompting criticism by defense officials and members of both parties on claims of jeopardizing national security.
Tuberville has said he refuses to budge unless Democrats allow a vote on the policy. The Senate could move forward by voting on each individual nomination, but Democrats argue that would tie up the floor for months and giving in would encourage similar situations in the future.
The Pentagon has estimated that the move has already stalled more than 260 nominations of senior officers in all five branches – a figure could potentially balloon to 650 by the end of the year.
Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said earlier this week the Pentagon was not subsidizing abortions, but “providing equitable reproductive health care for all of our service members.”
“The Department does not pay for abortions,” Ryder said. “What this is doing is facilitating access which a service member would have had previously.”
He added: “[I]f you are now assigned to a state where those types of services are not available, we’re not going to pay for those services. But what we will do is we will – just like we would if you were stationed overseas – get you to a place where you can then pay for those services.”
Ryder said the Pentagon did not want a force comprising “haves and have-nots where some people are going to have access and some people are not, by virtue of where the military assigns them, period.”
Fox News Digital’s Bradford Betz contributed to this report.