The announcement was made without fanfare on Friday, the start of the Labor Day holiday weekend. VA Secretary Denis McDonough said that the VA will offer abortion counseling and, in certain cases, abortions to pregnant Veterans and VA beneficiaries. McDonough called the decision a “patient safety decision.”
The VA submitted an interim final rule in the federal register to allow abortion counseling and abortions in the limited circumstances of rape or incest, or if carrying the pregnancy to term would endanger the life of the mother. The protocol is that the services will be authorized immediately after the final rule is published. It will be made available for public comment for 30 days after that.
McDonough said this is a benefit that veterans are owed. “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,” he added. The move comes as a response to trigger laws going into affect in pro-life states after the Supreme Court’s ruling on Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health.
The interim final rule states that the VA is amending its medical regulations to remove the exclusion on abortion counseling and abortion in order to include those services in the medical benefits package for veterans. It removes the exclusion of abortion counseling and abortions for exceptions for Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA) beneficiaries.
The VA’s Under Secretary for Health also released a brief statement.
“VA will be able to offer abortion counseling and abortions to pregnant Veterans and VA beneficiaries in cases of rape, incest, or when the life or health of the Veteran would be endangered if the pregnancy were carried to term — in accordance with generally accepted standards of medical practice,” said Dr. Shereef Elnahal, VA’s Under Secretary for Health. “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. Offering this care will save Veterans’ health and lives, and there is nothing more important than that.”
Many states (mostly red states) are either looking into placing more restrictions on abortions or banning them since the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Dobbs case. The VA’s position is that it is necessary to include these services as veteran benefits because restricting access to abortion causes adverse health consequences.
As to the “life and health of the pregnant veteran would be endangered if the pregnancy were carried to term” wording, those decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis. VA health care providers and veterans will consult before a decision is made. In the case of rape or incest, the veteran must report the crime to provide sufficient evidence that the attack occurred. The VA justifies the change in coverage as a way to guarantee that veterans in more restrictive states have access to abortion services. “VA will also continue to provide access to a full range of reproductive health services, including fertility services, contraceptives including emergency contraceptives, life-saving treatment related to pregnancy, and much more.”
It is interesting that the VA made this change public in such a Friday news dump kind of way. And, a Friday at the start of a long holiday weekend. Joe Biden’s administration is the most pro-abortion administration ever, something he is happy to boast about. It seems like Biden should have at least mentioned this move by the VA during his weekend rallies, right? The Democrats in his audiences, small as those audiences were, would have lapped the news up.
I pondered if the move violates the Hyde amendment. The Hyde amendment has been included in annual government funding bills since it was introduced by then-Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL) in the 1970s. It bans the use of federal funds for abortions in most cases.
As it turns out, in October 2021, Senate Democrats left out the Hyde amendment from their annual government funding bills for the first time in decades. It was omitted from legislation to fund the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education departments. Senator Patrick Leahy, who is not running for re-election but retiring after spending decades in the Senate, introduced the bill to the Senate Appropriations Committee. Leahy is that committee’s chair. I guess this is more of Biden “transforming” America.
For comparison purposes, TRICARE, the military’s health care program, covers abortions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest, or if it endangers the life of the mother. The change aligns CHAMPVA with TRICARE coverage. The services will be provided regardless to individual state laws.
The change by the VA falls in line with what polling finds. The majority of Americans believe abortion should be legal during the first trimester of pregnancy. After that, support for abortion drops significantly.
Only 34% believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases in the second trimester, however, and 19% say it should be legal during the third, including 52% and 28% of Democrats, respectively, and 18% and 8% of Republicans.
A Wall Street Journal poll found that American support for abortion rights has grown in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision. The subject may well motivate voters to go to the polls in November. Democrats are already saying the Supreme Court decision has proven to provide motivation to Democrat voters who may have been apathetic about the mid-term elections, given Biden’s dismal approval numbers and the state of the nation.
And more than half of voters surveyed said the issue has made them more likely to vote in the upcoming midterm elections, the newspaper reported Saturday.
A clear majority oppose abortion restrictions, such as bans at certain points of pregnancy or not allowing women to travel to get a legal abortion, according to the poll.
“According to the survey, 60% of voters said abortion should be legal in all or most cases — up from 55% in March,” WSJ reports.
Some 29% said it should be illegal except in cases of rape, incest and when the woman’s life is in danger — compared with 30% in March, the poll found. And 6% said it should be illegal in all cases, which is down from 11% in March, the Journal reported
We’ll see how this shakes out in November. I remain optimistic that the red wave will be strong enough to deliver the House back to the Republicans and possibly the Senate, too.