For the first time in its history, the Department of Veterans Affairs will begin offering abortion services in what it says is a direct response to the overturning of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court.
The agency announced Friday it will begin providing abortion counseling — and in some cases, abortion itself — to Americans eligible for Veterans Affairs (VA) services. As federal employees working at federal facilities, VA healthcare workers will be able to perform abortions even in states in which they are outlawed, the agency said.
BREAKING: “VA will offer abortion counseling and — in certain cases — abortions to pregnant Veterans and VA beneficiaries.” This is a policy change Dems in Congress have been demanding. https://t.co/4kbIzpIeVI
— Alice Miranda Ollstein (@AliceOllstein) September 2, 2022
“This is a patient safety decision,” Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough said in a statement. “Pregnant Veterans and VA beneficiaries deserve to have access to world-class reproductive care when they need it most. That’s what our nation owes them, and that’s what we at VA will deliver.”
The agency’s announcement alludes to the Supreme Court decision earlier in 2022 to overturn Roe v. Wade and the subsequent restrictions placed on abortion in a number of Republican-led states. It said restricting access to abortion has “well-documented adverse health consequences.”
“VA will be able to offer abortion counseling and abortions to pregnant Veterans and VA beneficiaries in cases of rape, incest, or when the life or health of the Veteran would be endangered if the pregnancy were carried to term — in accordance with generally accepted standards of medical practice,” VA Under Secretary for Health Dr. Shereef Elnahal said.
“We came to this decision after listening to VA health care providers and Veterans across the country, who sounded the alarm that abortion restrictions are creating a medical emergency for those we serve. Offering this care will save Veterans’ health and lives, and there is nothing more important than that,” Elnahal continued.
The new rule, which was filed Thursday night, will take effect immediately, the VA said. A public comment period on the new rule will begin and last 30 days from the rule’s filing, at which point the rule will transition from interim to permanent status. (RELATED: Pelosi Says It Is ‘Sinful’ To Restrict Abortion)
The Biden administration has taken a number of steps to federally increase access to abortion in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling, including threatening pharmacists who won’t fill prescriptions for abortion pills. More than a dozen states have significantly restricted abortion since Roe was overturned.