The Department of Veterans Affairs announced Sept 2. it will provide abortion counseling and services to pregnant veterans and VA beneficiaries following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade.
An interim final rule submitted Sept. 1 will allow VA to provide access to abortion counseling and — in certain cases — abortions to pregnant veterans and VA beneficiaries, according to a statement from the department. Specifically, VA providers will be allowed to perform abortions when the life or health of the pregnant veteran would be endangered if the pregnancy were carried to term, or when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. VA beneficiaries enrolled in CHAMPVA will also have access to this care, the statement said.
Interim final rules are rules issued by federal agencies that become effective upon publication without first seeking public comment on the rules’ substance. Instead, federal agencies solicit public comment at the time of publication and may make changes to the rules depending upon that feedback. The VA said the abortion rule will be available for public comment for 30 days following publication. Once published, concerned individuals can submit comments here.
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough said the rule is a “patient safety decision,” but pro-life advocates are decrying the VA’s decision.
‘Not health care’
“Abortion is not health care,” said Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America President Marjorie Dannenfelser. “In fact, it carries serious physical and mental health risks — and expanding abortion on demand into the VA is illegal, period.”
In a letter to McDonough sent Aug. 26, Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, a Baptist and prominent pro-life voice in Congress, expressed his concerns about any expansion of abortion-related services to those receiving VA health care.
Current federal law and regulation prohibits the VA from providing abortion services, he wrote, citing Section 106 of the Veterans Health Care Act of 1992, which “directs the VA to provide women with ‘general reproductive health care … not including … abortions.'”
“I strongly urge you and all VA officials to ensure that any regulatory actions proposed or issued by your agency are consistent with laws enacted by Congress, including Section 106 of the Veterans Health Care Act of 1992,” he stated. “Only Congress can change federal law, and Congress has held for the past 30 years that the VA is not permitted to offer abortion services.
“Abortion is not and will never be healthcare [sic]. Healthcare protects life. Abortion takes life. Instead of promoting the taking of human life, I would challenge you, and others within the VA, to respect the dignity of our veterans and all of their family members, including unborn children, by ensuring services provided and funded by the VA are focused on true healthcare consistent with federal law.”
The VA decision comes after the Supreme Court in June overturned federal abortion protections in the Dobbs decision.