VA hospitals will offer abortions despite state bans

department of veteran affairsThe sign in the front of the headquarters building at the Department of Veteran Affairs is seen as a man walks past in Washington, May 23, 2014. |

The Biden administration has announced its intention to provide abortion procedures at U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs medical facilities for eligible veterans and beneficiaries, including in states where the procedure has recently become illegal.

The department released a statement Friday announcing the submission of an interim final rule to the Federal Register the night before that will authorize VA hospitals to provide abortions and abortion counseling in cases of rape, incest and when the mother’s life is at risk. 

“This is a patient safety decision,” said VA Secretary Denis McDonough. 

“Pregnant veterans and VA beneficiaries deserve to have access to world-class reproductive care when they need it most,” he added. “That’s what our nation owes them, and that’s what we at VA will deliver.”

The document cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s June decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that overruled the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide as the justification for enacting the new policy.

“After Dobbs, certain states have begun to enforce existing abortion bans and restrictions on care, and are proposing and enacting new ones, creating urgent risks to the lives and health of pregnant veterans … in those states,” the submitted rule states.

The VA’s Undersecretary of Health Dr. Shereef Elnahal said the proposed rule follows conversations with “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 predicted.

According to the proposed rule: “VA is acting to help ensure that, irrespective of what laws or policies States may impose, veterans who receive the care set forth in the medical benefits package will be able to obtain abortions, if determined needed by a health care professional, when the life or the health of the pregnant veteran would be endangered if the pregnancy were carried to term or the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest.” 

The announcement comes after a request from more than two dozen congressional Democrats urging McDonough to amend the agency’s regulations to permit VA hospitals to provide abortions.

“The VA’s authority to provide care to veterans is established in the Veterans Health Care Eligibility Reform Act of 1996,” the lawmakers wrote in a July letter.

The congress members contend the statute requires the agency to “furnish hospital care and medical services which the Secretary determines to be needed” for a particular group of veterans.

The proposed rule proclaims that the “VA has determined that an abortion is ‘needed’ pursuant to 38 U.S.C. 1710, when sought by a veteran, if determined needed by a health care professional, 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 an act of rape or incest.”

Republicans and pro-life advocates see the proposed rule as a violation of federal law.

Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., wrote a letter to McDonough last on Aug. 26, warning him that federal law prohibits the VA from providing abortions.

He cited Section 106 of the Veterans Health Care Act of 1992, which authorizes the VA to provide “general reproductive healthcare, including the management of menopause, but not including under this section infertility services, abortions, or pregnancy care.” 

The VA insists that the amended regulations do not violate the Veterans Health Care Act of 1992 because Section 106 “does not prohibit VA’s amendment of its medical benefits package in this manner.”

“When that law was enacted in 1992, prior to the 1996 enactment of the Veterans’ Health Care Eligibility Reform Act, VA health care was subject to a patchwork of eligibility criteria, and care was largely linked only to service-connected conditions,” the rule proposal states. 

“Section 106 did not limit VA’s authority to provide care under any other provision of law. The ‘but not including’ language in Section 106 of the VHCA limited only the services provided ‘under this section,’ meaning that while section 106 barred the provision of any abortion or infertility service under section 106 of the VHCA, it did not limit VA’s authority to provide such services under any other statutory provision.” 

Lankford argues that “Abortion is not and will never be healthcare.”

“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,” Lankford wrote. 

Pro-life organizations also condemned the new rule. 

“Shame on Secretary McDonough for caving to Biden and the radical abortion lobby’s demands to violate state and federal law regarding abortion,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the national grassroots pro-life group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, said in a statement.

“Abortion is not health care – in fact it carries serious physical and mental health risks – and expanding abortion on demand into the VA is illegal, period,” she maintained. “This is the latest egregious example of the pro-abortion extremism that has taken over the Democratic Party. Biden himself used to agree taxpayers should never be forced to fund the destruction of innocent life. Now he is the head of the most pro-abortion administration in history.” 

After the rule is published in the Federal Register, federal law requires a 30-day public comment period. 

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: ryan.foley@christianpost.com

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