Sen. Hirono urges VA to begin offering abortion services to female veterans
Today, US Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) led 23 members of Congress in calling on the Department of Veterans Affairs to immediately offer abortions and all abortion-related services to veterans and eligible dependents.
Following the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision that overturns Roe v. Wade, more than 800,000 female veterans — about half of all women veterans in this country — live in states that are certain or likely to ban abortions, according to a news release by Sen. Hirono, member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.
Under current VA regulations, the Veterans Health Administration is prohibited from providing abortions and abortion counseling as part of the medical benefits package.
In a letter sent to VA Secretary Denis McDonough, the members highlight that because the VA has the statutory authority to provide abortions, they therefore must immediately begin a rulemaking process to change the current regulations and update the VHA’s medical benefit package to provide abortion and abortion-related services.
The letter highlights that Secretary McDonough recently expressed the VA has the statutory authority to provide abortions.
“Last month’s disastrous Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturned the nearly 50-year precedent established by Roe v. Wade and removed constitutional protection for abortion access from millions of individuals in this country, including an ever-growing number of veterans and dependents who are able to become pregnant,” the lawmakers wrote. “This decision makes it even more critical that veterans receive access to the reproductive care to which they are entitled.”
The letter continues: “We contend that the VA has the statutory authority and discretion to provide abortions and abortion-related services and resources. The VA’s authority to provide care to veterans is established in the Veterans Health Care Eligibility Reform Act of 1996.
“That statute provides that the VA Secretary shall furnish hospital care and medical services, which the Secretary determines to be needed to certain veterans. Importantly, the VA has used its authority under the Veterans Health Care Eligibility Reform Act of 1996 to provide reproductive care such as pregnancy care and infertility services, even though such care was initially excluded from the health care packages allowed under the Veterans Health Care Act of 1992.”
In addition to Senators Hirono and Warren, the letter is also signed by Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Angus King (I-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Tina Smith (D-MN), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Ron Wyden (D-OR).
The full text of the letter is here.