VA needs to train employees on abortion rules to provide proper care and safety, House Democrats say

Rep. Mark Takano (D-California), chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, marches on the Capitol to demand reproductive health care rights for veterans and military personnel on Sept. 28, 2022 Before, meet with veterans and advocates. Rep. Takano and California Democrat Rep. Julia Brownlee (not pictured) were at her home in Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona, and Nevada between Aug. 8 and her Sept. 1. Visited 6 Veterans Affairs Medical Centers. 8. (Sarah Zamora/The Star-Spangled Banner)

WASHINGTON — The Department of Veterans Affairs should implement its new abortion guidelines to ensure adequate health care and safety for female veterans, according to a new report from Democrats on the House Veterans Affairs Committee. must train all employees to

Rep. Mark Takano (D-California), Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said: “That’s why they served, and why they continue to serve more than ever before. There is no doubt that female veterans deserve our nation’s appreciation and gratitude, but more importantly, , that female veterans are entitled to comprehensive health care and benefits, including reproductive health care.”

The report, released Monday, included Rep. Takano, who visited VA medical centers in Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona, and Nevada between Aug. 8 and Sept. 8, and Julia, a California Democrat. Includes findings by Rep. Brownlee. House Veterans Subcommittee on Health and Women Veterans Task Force.

The Democrats on the committee chose VA medical facilities because access to abortions is in various states. Oklahoma and Texas were among the states to ban or severely limit access to abortion services after the U.S. Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade in June.

But in September, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced that all health care facilities should extend access to abortion counseling and procedures in special cases such as rape, incest, and when a veteran’s life is in danger. We have published a regulation that allows us to provide access to beneficiaries.

Additionally, Veterans Affairs Secretary Dennis McDonagh told lawmakers at a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing in September that the Department had requested and received input from the Justice Department’s Office of General Counsel. . of agency authority.

In the opinion of the Office of Legal Counsel of DOJ, the state imposes criminal or civil liability on VA employees, including physicians, nurses, or administrative staff, who provide or facilitate abortion or related services in a manner authorized by federal law. cannot be imposed.

However, during the legislator’s visit, the House VA Committee and staff members noted that some VA leaders and employees were not properly informed about existing VA policies regarding reproductive health care, such as the VA’s Maternity Care Directive. I found

The report also found that some veterans leaders and staff were unable to answer questions about abortion care.

According to the report, some clinical staff were concerned and fearful that they would be prohibited or restricted from practicing within their respective states and protected from license revocation or suspension that could be included in their licensing records. They also had concerns about whether the VA would defend them in civil or criminal cases related to providing abortions to veterans. Additionally, VA staff informed committee members that there was a strong demand for more detailed and state-specific guidance from VA headquarters in Washington, DC.

Democrats on the committee recommended that the VA distribute protective guidance to clinical personnel providing abortion care. They also recommend that the VA communicate with employees involved in providing abortion services about how they are protected from licensing and law enforcement action.

In June, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said federal employees who performed abortions in a federal employment capacity would not be violating the Assimilation Crimes Act. Omissions are not punishable by federal law.

But the report says overlapping federal and state laws has created an unclear law enforcement landscape, with veterans’ health facilities urging employees and veterans to try to enforce state abortion laws. I am not convinced that I could be targeted by local or state authorities. State and local law enforcement agencies are authorized on VA property with legal arrest warrants under the Assimilation Crimes Act.

According to the report, the VA Police Chief believes it is unlikely that local law enforcement will show up unannounced and make an arrest.

Democrats on the House Committee recommend that the VA’s Office of the General Counsel develop a list of law enforcement status at each VA medical facility and comply with state abortion laws and agreements with state and local law enforcement agencies. Recommended.

“Given the rapidly evolving legal landscape, [VA] According to the report, there is a need to proactively create a centralized repository of information that will help prepare for attempts to enforce state criminal or civil penalties against VA patients, employees, or visitors.

“Since the interim rules were issued in September, VA health care teams have worked hard to implement them to ensure the health and safety of pregnant veterans,” the VA said in preparation. said in a statement. [VA] received the report of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs [Democratic] staff. “

In August, the House Veterans Affairs Committee announced the launch of a new initiative focused on reproductive health care for veterans. Brownley is leading the initiative.

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