U.S. bishops: Senate vote keeping abortion in veteran health benefits is a ‘gross failure’

Veteran Affairs Veteran Affairs health clinic in Eugene, Oregon. | Shutterstock

The U.S. Senate on Wednesday voted not to overturn a new rule adding abortion to the health benefits of veterans and their dependents, prompting objections from leaders of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), who called the vote “a gross failure.”

“Our heroes and their dependents deserve quality health care services instead of policies to end the lives of their own children,” read a joint statement Thursday from the USCCB’s president, Archbishop Timothy Broglio, and Bishop Michael Burbidge, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

The bishops said it is “inhumane” to provide taxpayer-funded abortion as “a so-called solution to pregnancy” and not “resources needed to welcome a child and flourish as a family.”

“We continue to urge Congress to prevent implementation of this harmful policy and to provide instead real support for our military veterans and their loved ones,” Broglio and Burbidge said.

Broglio heads the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, while Burbidge heads the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia.

On Wednesday the Senate voted 51-48 against a Congressional Review Act resolution to overturn the interim final rule put out in September by the Department of Veterans Affairs that added abortion. Previously, the VA banned abortion and abortion counseling in its programs.

The bishops’ conference on Sept. 21, 2022, submitted comment on the VA regulation change. The comment noted that the VA policy to provide abortion when a pregnant woman’s “life or health” is endangered in effect allows abortion through all nine months of pregnancy.

The bishops also noted that Congress has not authorized elective abortion in VA programs.

“But even if it had, such a practice would be poor public policy because it involves the intentional killing of unborn children and harm to women who undergo the abortion procedure,” the 2022 statement said.

On Thursday, the bishops also spoke about the importance of improved health care for veterans.

“Many veterans face tremendous life challenges, especially as the active-duty experience too often involves significant mental health traumas and can be followed by a difficult readjustment to civilian life,” they said.

The new VA rule could 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, according to Politico.

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