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Female veterans express frustration with Sens. Sinema, Tuberville in federal struggle over abortion

In a protracted stand against abortion, Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville has put congressional confirmations for all military promotions on hold.

Arizona’s Sen. Kyrsten Sinema recently told the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce that she wants to help Tuberville — a Republican — and President Joe Biden compromise on the issue.

At a press conference held by local nonprofit VetsForward Tuesday, retired Army prosecutor Signa Oliver said Tuberville is creating an avalanche of consequences.

“These two disruptors have no thought or shame about the lives affected,” Oliver said of both Tuberville and Sinema, “only that their names be spoken about consistently in the media as we’re having to do today.”

Oliver also spoke directly to Sinema: “My question to U.S. Sen. Sinema is: What does your compromise or middle ground look like? Give us details, oh great mediator.”

For Oliver, the issue of potentially blocking military personnel from medical care hits close to home.

“I personally have had a situation not while I was in the military, but where I was pregnant,” she said. “I was at the fourth month mark, and I lost my baby. My doctors had to convince me that the baby was dead. Had I been in some of these states where they believe that, you know, nature should take its course and medical intervention is not necessary, I would have died. That’s what we’re talking about today.”

Joanna Sweatt is with the group Common Defense and a Marine Corps veteran.

Sweatt called Sinema’s comments “disgusting.”

“Sinema should support all women and support the military,” Sweatt said. “And let the military do what they do best, and that's protect our country.”

“The reality is federal money is not being used for abortion,” Sweatt said. “Federal money is being used to reimburse service members for any health services that the current state that they reside in as active duty members is not offering. And again, [that] is not limited to abortion.”

Having been wounded during her service, Sweatt said made use of that.

“These are the programs that Tuberville is holding hostage,” she said.

Sweatt said that a compromise is unacceptable, and that Tuberville’s “disregard for the well-being of servicemen and women is obvious.”

“He wants to control women in uniform, which is a contradiction to the principles of freedom and the autonomy for which I fought for,” Sweatt said, calling for the Alabama lawmaker to “stand down.”

“My question to U.S. Sen. Sinema is: What does your compromise or middle ground look like? Give us details, oh great mediator.” — Signa Oliver

Democratic state Rep. Stacey Travers, an Army veteran, said that Tuberville’s actions introduce risks to national security by disrupting military promotions.

“I'm sad that Sen. Tuberville is willing to compromise our national security for political football, using women as football,” Travers said.

For the first time since the Civil War, the Marine Commandant’s position is unfilled. Three other members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will reach the end of their terms this month and in September.

Toward Sinema, Travers expressed disappointment.

“One should never compromise one’s values, and one should never jeopardize the health and well-being and wellness of our constituents,” Travers said. “And I feel that's what Sen. Sinema is doing with this compromise.”

Travers said she also tries to find bipartisan solutions where possible.

“But I would much rather lose my job and no longer be in this position if it meant compromising my values to the degree that Senator Sinema has,” Travers said.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to the correct the spelling of Joanna Sweatt.

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Kirsten Dorman is a field correspondent at KJZZ. Born and raised in New Jersey, Dorman fell in love with audio storytelling as a freshman at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in 2019.