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Alabama supports Sen. Tuberville for halting military promotions over abortion issue


For the past six months, Alabama Senator Republican Tommy Tuberville has been blocking confirmation of high-ranking military personnel. He objects to the Pentagon policy that grants military members leave and travel expenses to obtain an abortion. In Washington, it's created frustration and gridlock. But in his home state, Tuberville has strong support. Troy Public Radio's Kyle Gassiott checked in on one local GOP meeting.

KYLE GASSIOTT, BYLINE: It's 6 p.m. on Monday night in Ozark, a small farming city in south Alabama. Around tables at the Hoppergrass Restaurant, about 25 men and women, all white and in their mid-60s, gather for the monthly Dale County GOP meeting.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

GASSIOTT: After the Pledge of Allegiance, the floor is open. First to speak is Laella Walding. The silver-haired senior told me that outside of an election year, the meetings tend to be quiet. Tonight, she's ready to get the crowd fired up.

LAELLA WALDING: Have you been hearing about Tommy Tuberville, our senator? He's getting a lot of pressure now because he's got...

GASSIOTT: Walding urges the room to support Tuberville and shield him from the blowback he's getting. Alabama has one of the country's strictest abortion laws and six military facilities. One of them, Fort Rucker, is 10 miles from Ozark. Walding says female personnel, like those at Fort Rucker, have been on her mind.

WALDING: I can identify with a lady that does not want to have an abortion but in the military and making a career of it.

GASSIOTT: Walding is against abortion rights and argues that women in the military may opt for an abortion to keep their career on track, so not paying for travel and giving time off would be a discouragement. In Washington, President Biden, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have all voiced frustration with Tuberville's hold. But at the Hoppergrass, it's a different story.

NORMAN HORTON: We actually have someone that stands up for what's right regardless of the cost.

GASSIOTT: Norman Horton doesn't believe Tuberville's block is harming the military. He says his senator is right by insisting the Hyde amendment, that bans federal funding for abortion procedures, applies in this case.

HORTON: We support someone that actually stands up for the rule of law, and unfortunately, that's become the exception, not the rule. But we love him.

GASSIOTT: Virginia Howard also loves Tuberville, and she's not happy with the lack of support from other GOP colleagues, including Alabama's other Republican senator, Katie Britt.

VIRGINIA HOWARD: I'm personally sorry that our junior senator is not supporting him.

GASSIOTT: There is agreement in the room that Tuberville is under a lot of pressure, but however long that lasts, these members are behind him.

For NPR News, I'm Kyle Gassiott in Ozark, Ala. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Kyle Gassiott