VA Will Offer Some Abortion Services to Vets and Beneficiaries
WASHINGTON — The Department of Veterans Affairs has submitted an interim final rule to the Federal Register that will allow the agency to provide access to abortion counseling and — in certain cases — abortions to pregnant veterans and VA beneficiaries.
Specifically, VA will provide access to abortions when the life or health of a pregnant veteran would be endangered if the pregnancy were carried to term, or when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.
VA beneficiaries enrolled in CHAMPVA will also have access to this care. CHAMPVA is a comprehensive health benefits program that provides care to the spouses and children of deceased or disabled veterans.
These new services will be authorized immediately after the interim final rule is published, and the rule will be available for public comment for 30 days thereafter.
Once the rule is published, VA will immediately prepare to provide these services in as many locations as possible.
“This is a patient safety decision,” said Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough in a written 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,” McDonough said.
Dr. Shereef Elnahal, the VA’s under secretary for Health, said in a press release that the agency 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.
“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,” Elnahal said.
Access to medically necessary abortions is essential for preserving the life and health of veterans and VA beneficiaries. Restricting access to abortion care has well-documented adverse health consequences, including increased risk of loss of future fertility, significant morbidity, or death. Veterans are also at greater risk of experiencing pregnancy-related complications due to increased rates of chronic health conditions. Therefore, to protect the life and health of pregnant veterans and eligible beneficiaries, VA determined that it was necessary to provide access to abortion counseling and some abortions.
The determination of whether the “life and health of the pregnant veteran would be endangered if the pregnancy were carried to term” will be made on a case-by-case basis and will be the result of careful consultation between VA health care providers and the veterans they serve. In cases of rape or incest, self-reporting from a veteran or VA beneficiary will constitute sufficient evidence that an act of rape or incest occurred.
For information about all reproductive health services at VA, visit VA.gov/ReproductiveHealth.
Dan can be reached at [email protected] and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue.