The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs medical system performed its first abortion a few weeks after the Biden administration announced it would provide abortions for eligible veterans and beneficiaries in light of the Supreme Court's overturn of Roe v. Wade in June.
During his testimony before the Veterans Affairs Committee last week, VA Secretary Denis McDonough confirmed that one of the department's medical centers carried out an abortion. McDonough provided the answer in response to a question from Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., regarding how many abortions have occurred at VA facilities.
As NBC News reported, a spokesperson for the department did not disclose the name of the woman who underwent the abortion or where it was performed, citing privacy reasons.
The VA did not immediately respond to The Christian Post's request for comment on the matter.
The VA secretary testified before the committee about a new rule allowing the VA to offer abortions in cases of rape, incest or if the woman's life is in danger, with the VA currently serving about 300,000 women of childbearing age.
According to McDonough, the Department of Justice reviewed the new rule and found it to be a "lawful exercise of VA's authority." McDonough cited a supremacy clause in the Constitution, claiming it prevents state officials from penalizing VA workers for "performing their federal functions."
"The principle that led us to take this step is our veteran patient safety," McDonough said. "We take that very, very seriously, and every decision we make flows from that principle."
Earlier this month, the department announced the submission of an interim final rule to the Federal Register to authorize the VA to commit abortions in some cases. McDonough asserted that the move is a "patient safety decision."
"Pregnant veterans and VA beneficiaries deserve to have access to world-class reproductive care when they need it most," he said. "That's what our nation owes them, and that's what we at VA will deliver."
The document justified the policy based on the Supreme Court's decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, which overturned the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. The decision returned the issue to the states, restoring their authority to determine abortion laws. Several states have enacted restrictions on abortion.
According to the proposed rule: "VA is acting to help 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, if determined needed by a health care professional, when the life or the health of the pregnant veteran would be endangered if the pregnancy were carried to term or the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest."
The VA's Undersecretary of Health Dr. Shereef Elnahal said that the department came to this decision after listening to VA healthcare providers and veterans who "sounded the alarm that abortion restrictions are creating a medical emergency for those we serve."
Prior to the announcement, two dozen congressional Democrats urged McDonough to amend the agency's regulations to permit VA hospitals to provide abortions. The lawmakers wrote in a July letter that the Veterans Health Care Eligibility Reform Act of 1996 established the VA's authority to provide care to veterans.
According to the lawmakers, the statute requires the agency to "furnish hospital care and medical services which the Secretary determines to be needed" for a particular group of veterans.
Republicans and pro-life advocates, such as Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., have argued that the proposed rule violates federal law.
In an Aug. 26 letter to McDonough, Lankford cited Section 106 of the Veterans Health Care Act of 1992, which prohibits the VA from providing abortions, among other services.
"Abortion is not and will never be healthcare," Lankford wrote.
"Healthcare protects life. Abortion takes life. Instead of promoting the taking of human life, I would challenge you, and others within the VA, to respect the dignity of our veterans and all of their family members, including unborn children, by ensuring services provided and funded by the VA are focused on true healthcare consistent with federal law."