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White House claims that laws protecting the unborn hurt military morale and retention

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National Security Council spokesman John Kirby suggested during a White House press briefing Monday that new laws protecting the unborn around the nation along with possible changes to the Department of Defense's abortion policy, such as those sought by Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), might hurt recruitment and morale for the U.S. military.

Kirby also insinuated that the Pentagon's facilitation of abortion procurement amounts to a "sacred obligation."

What's the background?

While Republicans in Congress seek to disentangle the U.S. military from pro-abortion initiatives by way of amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act, such as Rep. Ronny Jackson's (R-Texas) NDAA amendment passed last Thursday, Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) has endeavored to do so by way of senatorial privileges.

NPR reported that since February, Tuberville has blocked every personnel move in the U.S. military requiring a confirmation, which amounts to at least 270.

Tuberville noted in a July 14 op-ed that "over the last two years the Left has been relentless in turning the military from the world’s greatest killing machine to just another outfit for liberal social engineering."

"Since March the Pentagon has been spending our tax dollars for travel and extra paid time off for service members and their kids to get abortions – something Congress neither authorized nor appropriated," continued Tuberville. "With so much at stake, and with so much ground already lost, conservatives in Congress have no choice but to stand and fight against a politicized Pentagon before we look back with nostalgia on the days when the American people trusted its military."

The senator from Alabama told Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin earlier this year that the taxpayer should not be "on the hook" for abortion-related expenses, emphasizing that it violates the Hyde Amendment.

For his principled stance, Tuberville has drawn the ire, not just of Democrats, but also of seven former U.S. secretaries of Defense, who sent a letter on May 4 urging the "Senate to act expeditiously on the nearly 200 nominees for general and flag officer who are being blocked from Senate confirmation."

The former defense secretaries wrote, "We appreciate that Senators can have sincere and legitimate concerns about a Pentagon policy, including as it may relate to broader domestic or social issues. These lawmakers also deserve timely and thorough responses to their questions. However, we believe placing a hold on all uniformed nominees risks turning military officers into political pawns, holding them responsible for a policy decision made by their civilian leaders."

The White House responds

During a press briefing Monday, a reporter raised the matter of Tuberville's holds on military promotions, saying, "The administration has been critical of Senator Tuberville with his holds on military promotions because of social policy and saying that he is harming military readiness. On the flip-side of that impasse — and this is something that Republican lawmakers have raised — why is the new DOD policy on abortion critical to military readiness?"

Kirby responded by highlighting that "one in five members of the U.S. military are women. Twenty percent. ... When you sign up and you make that contract, you have every right to expect that the organization — in this case, the military — is going to take care of you and they’re going to take care of your families."

Kirby then suggested that the facilitation of abortion procurement, which he euphemistically referred to as "reproductive care," is a "foundational, sacred obligation of military leaders."

Beyond suggesting that the Pentagon's abortion policy is somehow holy, Kirby claimed that pro-life laws "in this country that are now being passed are absolutely having an effect on [service members' and their spouses'] willingness to continue serving in uniform or to encourage — or discourage, in this case — their spouses from continuing service."

As a consequence of pro-life laws, Kirby further suggested there will be retention and morale issues.

"Recruiting is tough enough as it is with a very strong economy out there. We want to keep the people that we get," said Kirby. "Not to mention, it's just the right darn thing to do."

Kirby's suggestion Monday that abortion might have an impact on the Pentagon's recruitment crisis echoes remarks made last summer by Gil Cisneros, the Pentagon’s chief of personnel and readiness.

Cisneros said, "We have concerns that some service members may choose to leave the military altogether because they may be stationed in states with restrictive reproductive health laws."

Although Kirby indicated that prospective U.S. military members' difficulties offing their unborn children might adversely affect recruitment and retention, there appear to be various far more consequential factors precluding Americans from joining the military that preceded the Supreme Court'sDobbs ruling and Republicans' recent pro-life laws.

Recruitment woes

The Army missed its recruitment goal by 25% last year, its worst recruiting year since the end of the draft in 1973.

U.S. Army Secretary Christine Wormuth told CNBC, "Only about 23% of kids between 16 and 21 are able to meet our standards, and some of that, frankly, is reflective of the problem that we have in our country with obesity."

TheBlaze previously reported that the Air Force recently eased its body fat requirements in hopes of meeting its yearly active-duty recruiting goal. It's presently unclear what weight this change might have on intake.

Beside problems of fitness, there are also problems of desire, suggested Wormuth.

"Right now, only 9% of young Americans say that they’re interested in joining the military."

Even military families, whose children make up the majority of new recruits, "don't see it as a good choice," Adm. Mike Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently told the Wall Street Journal.

The Journal explained how one proud military family had soured on the prospect of encouraging their boys to join up, not because it might be difficult for some mothers to off their young but owing to the Biden administration's botched conclusion to the Afghanistan War in 2021, which had proven too dispiriting.

The military must also contend with the fact that it can no longer lure prospects who are fit, capable, and possibly interested with financial incentives when civilian institutions are offering the same or better.

Sgt. Maj. Marco Irenze, of the Nevada Army National Guard, told the Journal, "To be honest with you it’s Wendy’s, it’s Carl’s Jr., it’s every single job that a young person can go up against because now they are offering the same incentives that we are offering, so that’s our competition right now."

The Military Times reported that extra to "an under-educated public, a roaring civilian jobs market and bad perceptions of service fueled by negative headlines," Genesis, the electronic health record for the Military Health System, may have had a hand in disqualifying prospects who have been on medicines in the past or have met with psychiatrists.

Genesis has also been accused of making medical screenings longer, according to Maj. Gen. Edward Thomas, head of Air Force Recruiting Service.

To make matters worst, those unwilling to get the COVID-19 vaccine have likely shied away from recruitment centers. While the military has claimed there is no "hard data" to show that the vaccine mandate hurt recruiting, it has ousted thousands of service members who refused the vaccine.

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