The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs has announced it will begin providing abortions in cases of rape, incest and endangerment to the life of the mother, even in states like Alabama where abortion is outlawed in those instances.
But Attorney General Steve Marshall said he would enforce the law against any practitioner in the state who performs an abortion.
“For this Administration, there is nothing more important than attempting to bully conservative states on every major issue, including abortion, even when the Administration lacks the authority to do so,” Marshall responded in a statement. “I have no intention of abdicating my duty to enforce the Unborn Life Protection Act against any practitioner who unlawfully conducts abortions in the State of Alabama. The power of states to protect unborn life is settled.”
But according to the VA’s new rule, its employees “may not be held liable under State or local law or regulation for reasonably performing their Federal duties.”
Prior to the new rule, the VA had excluded abortions and abortion counseling from its services. The rule cites the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that overturned the precedent set by Roe v. Wade as triggering the change.
“After Dobbs, certain States have begun to enforce existing abortion bans and restrictions on care, and are proposing and enacting new ones, creating urgent risks to the lives and health of pregnant veterans and CHAMPVA beneficiaries in these States,” the rule says. “In response, VA is acting to help to ensure that, irrespective of what laws or policies States may impose, veterans who receive the care set forth in the medical benefits package will be able to obtain abortions.”
Some of the conditions under the rule that might trigger an abortion to preserve the health of the mother include chronic post-traumatic stress disorder, severe hypertension and chronic renal disease.
Veterans seeking an abortion due to rape or incest will not be required to prove that they reported the incident to law enforcement.
“Over 600,000 women Veterans use Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care and about half of that number are Veterans of child-bearing age,” said VA Secretary Denis McDonough. “VA is committed to providing these Veterans the full range of reproductive health services to ensure their health and well-being.”
The rule is set to take immediate effect.