VA Makes 'Historic Shift' on Abortion Access

Agency will start offering abortion access to veterans, even in states where procedure is banned
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 3, 2022 7:45 AM CDT
VA Makes 'Historic Shift' on Abortion Access
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/Kiyoshi Tanno)

The Department of Veterans Affairs hasn't offered abortions, or even counseling for patients considering one, to the former service members covered by its health care services. That's about to change, thanks to what the Washington Post calls a "historic shift" that will allow veterans and eligible family members to access the procedure at its federal health sites across the nation—even in states where abortion is now restricted or banned. The agency announced the proposed change Friday to its policy, which will allow abortions for pregnancies due to rape or incest, or if the veteran's health or life is endangered. This policy will closely resemble the Defense Department's for access to abortions in military hospitals for active service members.

In a release, the VA notes that that such access is "essential for preserving the life and health of veterans and VA beneficiaries," reports NBC News, which adds that abortion counseling will also be available to both veterans and eligible dependents. While it's not clear how many women would qualify for an abortion under the new policy—which comes two months after Roe v. Wade was overturned, eliminating federal protections for abortions—there are 2 million women veterans in America, with about a quarter of them covered by VA care, according to agency numbers. There are also 435,000 or so eligible dependents, according to last year's stats, per the Military Times. It's not spelled out where veterans would have the procedures done, though VA officials say their goal is to allow access in "as many locations as possible."

Not everyone is on board with the change. "This proposal is contrary to long-standing, settled law and a complete administrative overreach," House Veterans Affairs Committee ranking member Mike Bost said in a Friday statement. "I oppose it and am already working to put a stop to it." The VA, however, is forging ahead. "Pregnant veterans and VA beneficiaries deserve to have access to world-class reproductive care when they need it most," VA Secretary Denis McDonough said in a statement, calling it a "patient safety decision," per the Post. "That's what our nation owes them, and that's what we at VA will deliver." The rule, which the VA submitted to the Federal Register on Thursday, is set to be authorized and published next week, pending any legal challenges. (More abortion stories.)

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