The VA medical system performed its first abortion, weeks after an interim final rule was announced that allowed it to provide the service in cases of incest, rape or when the life of the mother was in danger.
Denis McDonough, secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, told lawmakers in the Senate Wednesday night that the procedure was performed at one of his medical centers. A spokesman, citing customer privacy, declined to provide the location or elaborate.
The VA did not previously provide abortion services, but after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and ending constitutional abortion rights, the department said it believes it is “essential” to the lives and health of veterans and VA beneficiaries that they still have access to medically necessary abortions.
McDonough said in a Press release that offering the service was a “patient safety decision.
“Pregnant veterans and VA beneficiaries deserve 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 provide,” she said in a statement.
dr Shereef Elnahal, the department’s assistant secretary for health, said the VA made its decision after listening to health care providers and veterans.
“Offering this care will save the health and lives of veterans, and nothing is more important than that,” Elnahal said in a statement.
In addition to abortions, the VA will also provide abortion counseling. Both changes also apply to eligible dependents enrolled in the agency’s CHAMPVA program.
The Supreme Court ruling in June prompted several states to enact trigger laws that have banned abortions outright or severely restricted when the procedure can take place. The VA said its health care providers will be able to provide authorized services regardless of state restrictions.
Decisions as to whether a pregnant person’s “life or health” is in danger will be made on a case-by-case basis by VA health care providers in consultation with patients. The VA will consider self-reported rape or incest as sufficient evidence in those cases, the agency said.
The VA excluded abortion coverage when it established its medical benefits package in 1999. The agency did not provide an explanation at the time, but said in background information provided earlier this month that it was aware that veterans in its system of care medical “could access abortion services. in their communities.” After Dobbs’ decision in June, that was no longer the case across the country, prompting the agency to create waivers for their exclusion.
adel kaplan contributed.