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VA performs its first few weeks of abortion after saying it will in some cases

The Veterans Affairs Medical System performed its first abortion, weeks after an interim final rule was announced that allowed it to provide the service in cases of incest or rape or when the woman’s life was in danger.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough told senators Wednesday night that the procedure was performed at one of the VA’s medical centers. A spokesperson, citing customer privacy, declined to provide the location or give further details.

The VA did not previously provide abortion services, but after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and ended constitutional abortion rights, the department said it believes it is “essential” to the lives and health of veterans and VA recipients that they still have access to medically necessary abortions.

McDonough said in a press release that offering the service was a “patient safety decision.”

“Pregnant veterans and VA recipients deserve access to world-class reproductive care when they need it most. It’s what our nation owes them, and it’s what we at VA, will offer,” he said.

Dr. Shereef Elnahal, the department’s undersecretary of health, said the VA made its decision after listening to health care providers and veterans.

“Providing this care will save the health and lives of veterans, and there is nothing more important than that,” Elnahal said in a statement.

In addition to abortions, the VA will also provide abortion counseling. Both changes apply to eligible dependents enrolled in the agency’s Civilian Health and Medicine Program, or CHAMPVA.

The Supreme Court ruling in June led several states to move forward with trigger laws that either banned abortions entirely or severely restricted when they could occur. The VA said its healthcare providers will be able to provide authorized services regardless of state restrictions.

Decisions about whether a pregnant person’s “life or health” is at risk will be made on a case-by-case basis by VA health care providers in consultation with patients. The VA will consider self-reporting of rape or incest as sufficient evidence, the agency said.

The VA excluded abortion coverage when it established its medical benefit package in 1999. The agency, which did not provide an explanation at the time, said in background information provided this month She knew veterans of her health care system “could access abortion.” services in their communities. After the Dobbs ruling in June, that was no longer the case nationally, prompting the agency to create exemptions to its exclusion.

Adiel Kaplan contributed.

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