Abortion trial in Alabama possible as Department of Veterans Affairs plans drugs and surgery

Medical abortions will be the first type of abortions offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs, said Dr. Shereef Elnahal, VA undersecretary of health.

Elnahal said the VA was concerned about restrictions on women’s health care and abortions following the overturning of Roe v. Wade during the United States House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing on Thursday. The new interim final rule was announced on Friday and provides female veterans with access to abortion when a patient’s life is at stake or the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.

“We just couldn’t cope with this security environment for veterans,” Elnahal said. “If these veterans are in our care and we know we can save their lives, we have to.”

He said federal employees who perform abortions at VA sites will be protected, even if they work in states that ban the procedures.

Current Alabama law prohibits all abortions except when the patient’s health is seriously threatened. There are currently no exceptions for rape or incest.

Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Montana) said during the hearing that he was “glad that the State of Alabama has already filed a lawsuit.”

A representative for state Attorney General Steve Marshall declined to comment or confirm whether that statement was correct. No new file seemed to have been filed Thursday afternoon.

The rule also allows VA medical professionals to treat several pregnancy-related conditions that were previously excluded from the medical package.

“VA, before this rule, could not treat severe preeclampsia in early pregnancy. He couldn’t deal with heavy bleeding leading to hemorrhagic shock,” said the president, Rep. Mark Takano (D-California). “He couldn’t treat placental abruption causing hemorrhage. He couldn’t treat water ruptures early in pregnancy causing infection. He couldn’t treat ectopic pregnancy.

Elnahal clarified that abortion counseling will be available to all veterans, while abortions themselves will either be limited to a clinician’s opinion or the result of a self-report of rape. or incest. He clarified that self-declaration of rape or incest was sufficient proof to have an abortion.

Elnahal said the VA will work alongside the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and its own pharmacy benefit management program to comply with rules around medical abortions. Currently, abortion pills are FDA approved.

Dr. Amanda Johnson, the VA’s director of women’s reproductive health, said the VA estimates that around 1,000 abortions will now be performed each year, the majority being medical abortions.

The VA reported that 10 to 12 women a year had ever received emergency care when a pregnancy threatened their health each year, but several lawmakers pointed out that the VA excluded abortions and abortion counseling from their package of benefits without exception before this rule change.

“I understand that there are only about a dozen such cases a year and my colleague, President Brownley, thinks there are more,” Takano said. “I’m with her on this, because it wasn’t even allowed to talk about advice on abortion services that could save women’s lives, but there were brave VA doctors who took the lives of our female veterans even before their own potential livelihood.”

A recent email from Birmingham VA executive director Dr. Oladipo A. Kukoyi did not confirm that Alabama would begin expanding abortion protection for veterans in the state, but said that the department would set up a “multidisciplinary team” to begin looking for solutions. surrounding women’s health care.

None of the other VA sites in the state have posted similar information to date.

Disabled American Veterans, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans, Minority Veterans of America and Paralyzed Veterans of America have all released statements of support for the VA’s efforts to prioritize to women’s health care.

The rule will be effective upon publication in the Federal Register, with an open public comment period.

Sarah Swetlik is a gender and politics reporter at AL.com. It is supported by a partnership with Report for America. Help support the team here.

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