WASHINGTON— Senate Democrats are urging the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide abortion services at their hospitals, ramping up pressure on federal agencies to increase access to abortion care after the Supreme Court struck down the protection.
The Supreme Court's recent ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, the senators write in a letter first obtained by NBC News and signed by 23 Democratic lawmakers, “makes it even more critical that veterans receive access to the reproductive care to which they are entitled.”
“The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) must urgently begin rulemaking to allow veterans and eligible dependents to receive abortions and all abortion-related services,” the letter reads.
The VA is currently prohibited from providing abortions and travel assistance related to abortion procedures as a part of the medical benefits package, but the letter sent to VA Secretary McDonough contends the agency “has the statutory authority and discretion to provide abortions and abortion-related services and resources.”
“About half of female veterans, hundreds of thousands of them, are living in states that either ban abortions or are about to,” Sen Mazie Hirono (D-HI), who led the letter with Senator Elizabeth Warren, told NBC News in an interview, “So we’re doing everything we can to provide abortion services to these veterans who deserve it and need it.”
The push comes as abortion-rights advocates are increasing their pressure on the Biden administration to take actions to provide abortion services as states across the country start to prohibit them in the wake of Roe v Wade.
President Biden signed an executive order in July to make sure FDA approved abortion medications remained widely accessible, make sure contraception is available, and protect patient privacy for woman seeking information on abortion services. Efforts to codify the protections provided by Roe v Wade have failed in the Senate.
But as regulations stand now, the VA argues they cannot provide abortion services. Department of Veterans Affairs Press Secretary Terrence Hayes told NBC News in a statement prior to the senators’ letter that “access to contraception and fertility services is and will remain a critical component of Veteran health care, and VA will continue to deliver reproductive health care operations consistent with our Federal legal authority” including access to services and contraception, as well as patient safety.