VA Secretary: We Decide, Not State AGs, If Vets Can Access Abortion In States With Bans

Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough is making it clear who has the ultimate say in deciding whether or not veterans in states with abortion bans can nonetheless entry abortion care.

He does, not Republican state attorneys normal.

Throughout a Wednesday listening to earlier than the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) praised McDonough for altering VA guidelines this month, for the primary time, to supply abortion care to veterans in instances involving rape, incest or when the lifetime of the affected person is in danger. There are at the moment about 300,000 feminine veterans of childbearing age who obtain their well being care below the VA well being system, and lots of dwell in states the place abortion is now not accessible.

Hirono famous that Alabama GOP Lawyer Common Steve Marshall is already threatening to prosecute any VA physician who offers abortion providers in his state, the place abortion is now solely banned.

“I would expect other Republican attorney generals, in the states where abortion is now provided, to follow suit,” Hirono advised McDonough. “Mr. Secretary, what legal protections do federal employees at VA have under the interim final rule?”

McDonough mentioned the Justice Division’s Workplace of Authorized Counsel had simply launched an opinion hours earlier, one which he requested, that concluded it’s solely “a lawful exercise of VA’s authority” to supply veterans with entry to reproductive well being care.

The Justice Division opinion additionally concluded that “states may not impose criminal or civil liability on VA employees ― including doctors, nurses, administrative staff ― who provide or facilitate abortions or related services in a manner authorized by federal law,” he mentioned. “The supremacy clause of the Constitution bars state officials from penalizing VA employees for performing their federal functions, whether through criminal prosecution, license revocation proceedings, or civil litigation.”

“This [Office of Legal Counsel] opinion makes very clear the protections that are afforded VA providers,” McDonough added.

A Marshall spokesman didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark.

The Justice Division’s Workplace of Authorized Counsel didn’t instantly reply to a request for a replica of its authorized opinion on the VA offering abortion care.

The VA has full authorized authority to supply abortion providers to veterans in states with abortion bans, says VA Secretary Denis McDonough.

Tom Williams through Getty Photographs

In contrast to the Division of Well being and Human Companies, the VA shouldn’t be certain by the Hyde Modification, the legislative provision that bars using federal funds for abortion besides in instances the place a being pregnant is attributable to rape, incest or when the girl’s life is in danger. However VA leaders selected to place Hyde-like restrictions in place regardless of the company not being required to take action.

HuffPost requested the VA earlier this month why McDonough determined to restrict the VA’s abortion providers to instances of rape, incest or the affected person’s life being in danger. A division spokesman mentioned, “At this time, VA is responding to the emergency need to protect the life and health of our nation’s Veterans.”

McDonough mentioned Wednesday that the choice to supply abortion providers to veterans in any respect was in response to security issues.

“I’d just reiterate the principle that led us to take this step is veteran patient safety,” he mentioned. “We take that very, very seriously. Every health decision we make flows from that principle.”