The New Journos

Veterans Affairs to provide abortions in cases of rape, incest and health risks

The Department of Veterans Affairs is taking steps to offer pregnant female veterans and beneficiaries abortion counseling as well as abortions in certain instances. The health care will likely be provided across the U.S., regardless of state laws on abortion, the department said.

Women who became pregnant as the result of rape or incest will be eligible for abortions, as will women who are facing or could face health complications due to the pregnancy, according to the interim final rule, which the department submitted to the Office of the Federal Register for publication.

“This is a patient safety decision,” Denis McDonough, secretary of the VA, 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.”

Dr. Shereef Elnahal, under secretary for health for the department, said the care they will offer is “in accordance with generally accepted standards of medical practice.” 

“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,” Elnahal said in a statement. “Offering this care will save Veterans’ health and lives, and there is nothing more important than that.”

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, female veterans have higher rates of chronic health conditions and are at a higher risk for pregnancy-related health risks. Each pregnant female veteran will be evaluated by the department’s health care providers to determine whether she is at risk of health complications.

A woman who self-reports that a pregnancy is due to rape or incest will be eligible for an abortion if they so choose, the department said.

The VA said it will aim to offer abortions across the country — citing the fact that VA employees can “provide authorized services regardless of state restrictions.”

Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, many states have sought to restrict access to abortion, while others have moved to protect a woman’s right to such care. In its interim final rule, the VA wrote that it’s taking such action in response to the high court’s decision.

Other portions of the U.S. government have moved to protect abortions, including the U.S. House and President Biden.

After the Federal Register publishes the interim final rule, the public has 30 days to comment on it. After that period, the rule will then be published, and the VA will begin to roll out abortion services “in as many locations as possible.”

It will also continue to provide other reproductive care, including fertility and contraceptive services.

For more information about abortion services at the VA, visit VA.gov/ReproductiveHealth and click on “Abortion Services.”

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