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For The First Time, The VA Will Begin Providing Abortions To Veterans

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The Department of Veterans Affairs announced Friday that, for the primary time, it is going to begin providing access to abortion services and counseling to the nation’s tons of of hundreds of female veterans and VA beneficiaries.

The VA’s decision is monumental, nevertheless it comes with restrictions: The agency will only provide abortions in cases where a pregnancy is the results of rape, incest or when the lifetime of the lady is in danger.

“This can be a patient safety decision,” Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough said in an announcement. “Pregnant veterans and VA beneficiaries should have access to world-class reproductive care after they need it most. That’s what our nation owes them, and that’s what we at VA will deliver.”

Asked why McDonough decided to limit the VA’s abortion services to cases of rape, incest or a girl’s life being in danger, a VA spokesperson told HuffPost, “At the moment, VA is responding to the emergency have to protect the life and health of our nation’s Veterans.”

“This can be a patient safety decision,” Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough said of the VA starting to supply abortion services to veterans.

Drew Angerer via Getty Images

The VA’s move comes roughly two months after conservatives on the Supreme Court gutted Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that provided a constitutional right to an abortion.

McDonough has been under pressure from Democrats to make use of his authority to make sure that veterans and VA beneficiaries have access to reproductive care within the wake of Roe v. Wade’s demise. Last month, greater than two dozen Democratic senators — half of the Senate Democratic caucus — wrote to McDonough urging him to act “immediately.” Roughly 555,000 female veterans used the VA health care system in fiscal 12 months 2020, as did greater than 400,000 female dependents and survivors through the agency’s CHAMPVA program.

They were very joyful with Friday’s news.

“Today, I’m grateful that Secretary McDonough and the Biden Administration are taking a landmark step to assist address the health care crises that Republicans are causing across the country,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions and a senior member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

“For the primary time ever, the Veterans Health Administration will finally give you the option to supply abortion care to make sure none of our veterans or their eligible dependents may have to face medical emergencies — or stay pregnant after a rape or incest — just because Republican politicians think they know what’s best for them,” she said.

The VA got the ball rolling on its policy change late Thursday by submitting an interim final rule to the Federal Register to permit the agency to start providing abortion-related services. The brand new services might be authorized immediately after this rule is published, in line with the VA, after which the rule might be available for public comment for 30 days. After that, the VA will begin providing abortions services in “as many locations as possible.”

Here’s a duplicate of the VA’s interim final rule:

VA officials say they concluded that access to “medically crucial abortions” is important for preserving the life and health of veterans and VA beneficiaries. They pointed to opposed health consequences to not providing abortions in these circumstances, like increased risk infertility, significant morbidity and even death.

“We got here to this decision after listening to VA health care providers and Veterans across the country, who sounded the alarm that abortion restrictions are making a medical emergency for those we serve,” Dr. Shereef Elnahal, the VA’s under secretary for health, said in an announcement. “Offering this care will save Veterans’ health and lives, and there’s nothing more essential than that.”

The VA says its health care providers will seek the advice of with individual female veterans on a case-by-case basis to make determinations on when a pregnancy may put that veteran’s life in danger. In cases of rape or incest, self-reporting from a veteran or VA beneficiary is taken into account “sufficient evidence” for proceeding with abortion services.

As for veterans who live in states with latest restrictions and even bans on abortions within the aftermath of Roe v. Wade being overturned, the VA makes it clear the federal government has the upper hand over state laws.

“VA employees, when working inside the scope of their federal employment, may provide authorized services no matter state restrictions,” reads a VA statement.

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