The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has announced that it will begin implementing abortion services at its locations, regardless of state laws.
The services will not be unilateral, according to Secretary of the VA Denis McDonough,
Abortions would only be available when the life or health of a pregnant veteran or beneficiary would be endangered if the pregnancy were carried to term or when the pregnancy results from rape or incest.
"VA employees, when working within the scope of their federal employment, may provide authorized services regardless of state restrictions," McDonough said.
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization overturned 1973's Roe v. Wade decision, which had made elective abortion on demand a constitutional right.
This Dobbs decision relegated the legality and scope of abortion to the respective states.
By their own admission, the Department of Veterans Affairs can choose not to follow state laws restricting abortion because their medical facilities are on federally owned land. Since no federal law prohibits abortion, the VA is left to create its own policies and processes, free from the constraints of state law.
"As I've said many times, our diversity—of gender, of race, of thought and belief—is a fundamental source of strength of our country, of our Armed Forces and of our workforce at VA," McDonough said.
"[U]ltimately, this was a patient safety decision above all else. Pregnant veterans and VA beneficiaries deserve to have access to world-class, life-saving reproductive care when they need it most—including access to abortion counseling and abortion services when necessary. That's what our nation owes them, and that's what we at VA will deliver."
This is a patient safety decision. Pregnant Veterans and VA beneficiaries deserve to have access to world-class reproductive care when they need it most.— Office of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs (@SecVetAffairs) September 2, 2022
That’s what our nation owes them, and that’s what we at VA will deliver. https://t.co/rXPU5k9VOZ
Fifteen states have abortion bans, and some, including Alabama, offer limited exceptions.
The Department of Veterans Affairs operates four hospitals in Alabama, including Birmingham, Montgomery, Tuscaloosa and Tuskegee. The agency also operates 16 outpatient clinics in the state, including Bessemer, Birmingham, Childersburg, Dothan, Fort Rucker, Gadsden, Guntersville, Huntsville, Jasper, Mobile, Monroeville, Montgomery, Oxford, Selma and Sheffield.
McDonough's VA also could be running afoul of the Hyde Amendment, which restricts federal funding of abortions.
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