Department of Veterans Affairs to offer abortions in certain cases nationwide

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The Department of Veterans Affairs announced Friday that it would begin providing abortions in the case of threats to the life and health of the mother, or in cases of rape or incest. 

The agency, which has never offered abortions before, said it plans to do so nationwide "regardless of state restrictions." 

“Specifically, VA will be able to provide access to abortions when the life or health of the pregnant Veteran would be endangered if the pregnancy were carried to term, or when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest,” the VA website reads. The VA will also offer counseling “about pregnancy options, including abortion.”

As the VA is a federal entity, the new guidance will apply even in states that have passed restrictions on abortion. More than a dozen states have banned abortion — with limited exceptions — since the June 24 overturning of Roe v. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court. 

“VA employees, when working within the scope of their federal employment, may provide authorized services regardless of state restrictions,” the website says. 

The interim final rule will take effect upon its publication in the federal register, after which there will be a 30-day period during which the public can submit comments. Once the rule is published, the VA will “immediately prepare to provide these services in as many locations as possible,” the agency says. 

The VA’s decision to provide abortions is likely to face legal challenges. The Hyde Amendment restricts federal funding of abortions to include only those cases involving rape, incest, or a maternal mortality risk; and, notably, the Veterans Health Care Act of 1992 prohibits abortion for military veterans or retirees, Politico reported. 

All of the U.S. states with abortion bans have exceptions written into them for abortions that are deemed medically necessary to save the life of the mother. Medical professionals have pointed out that although certain lifesaving procedures may have the unintended consequence of interrupting a pregnancy, direct abortion is never necessary to save the mother’s life. 

Some states, such as Texas, expand the list of exceptions to include cases where the mother’s health is at risk, but not all states provide exceptions for cases of rape or incest. 

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