Effort to Repeal VA Abortion Coverage Narrowly Fails in Senate Vote
An effort by opponents within the Senate to undo the Department of Veterans Affairs‘ choice final yr to start offering abortions fizzled out Wednesday after a decision to repeal the coverage narrowly failed to beat a key procedural hurdle.
The Senate voted 51-48 in opposition to advancing the decision provided by Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., that may have reversed the abortion coverage the VA carried out following the Supreme Court docket’s ruling final yr that ended nationwide abortion rights.
The vote closes a chapter of Congress’ bid to cease the VA from offering abortions. However the coverage remains to be dealing with challenges, together with a pending lawsuit filed by a nurse in Texas alleging the VA rule violates her spiritual liberties.
In September, the VA introduced that for the primary time, it could provide abortions in instances of rape, incest or the place the life or well being of the mom is in danger from the being pregnant. The change was made in response to the June Supreme Court docket ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Girls’s Well being Group that allowed states to ban abortion.
VA officers haven’t publicly disclosed the variety of abortions offered since then. However in a letter to Congress final month first reported by Bloomberg and obtained by Navy.com on Wednesday, the division stated it offered 34 abortions by means of February.
Of the 34, 26 had been accomplished to guard the well being of the mom, in line with the letter. One was offered to guard the lifetime of the mom, seven got as a result of the being pregnant resulted from a rape and none had been due to incest. The letter doesn’t specify what amenities the abortions had been performed in, nor whether or not they had been medicine or surgical abortions.
Tuberville and different Republicans argue the VA coverage violates a 1992 regulation that directed the VA to supply reproductive well being care apart from “infertility providers, abortions or being pregnant care,” until that care is required due to a service-connected situation.
“This administration does not get to vary the regulation simply because they really feel prefer it,” Tuberville stated at a information convention Wednesday forward of the vote. “It is a slap within the face to individuals who do not need to pay for abortions.”
Supporters of the VA coverage counter that it’s allowed below a 1996 regulation that requires the division to present “wanted” medical care to veterans.
Tuberville challenged the VA coverage below what’s often called the Congressional Overview Act, or CRA, which permits Congress to overturn actions the manager department takes by means of the federal rulemaking course of.
Below the CRA, solely a easy majority was wanted to advance the decision, slightly than the 60 votes wanted for many laws within the higher chamber.
That vote threshold raised the prospect that the Senate might advance Tuberville’s decision despite the fact that Democrats maintain a slim majority within the chamber. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., supported the decision, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has been absent, which means Democrats wanted a minimum of one Republican to aspect with them to dam the decision.
Finally, Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voted in opposition to the decision. Each senators stated they consider the VA coverage is according to what’s often called the Hyde Modification, a rider included in annual spending payments that bars federal funding for abortions besides in instances of rape, incest or when the mom’s life is in danger.
“I believe that the rule itself meets the Hyde necessities, that are just about my tips there, and I believe that the VA has the authority to difficulty such a rule,” Murkowski informed Navy.com.
The White Home additionally threatened to veto the decision if it reached President Joe Biden’s desk, which means the measure would have wanted to muster a minimum of two-thirds assist to turn out to be regulation.
“The laws wouldn’t solely forestall veterans and CHAMPVA beneficiaries from receiving important well being care after they want it most — it undermines affected person security and invitations political interference into deeply private selections made by pregnant veterans and CHAMPVA beneficiaries in session with their health-care suppliers, threatening their well being and lives,” the White Home stated in an announcement Wednesday, utilizing the acronym for Civilian Well being and Medical Program of the Division of Veterans Affairs.
The vote on Tuberville’s VA decision comes as he has been on the middle of a separate however related controversy over the Pentagon’s abortion coverage.
Tuberville has been blocking quick confirmation for about 160 basic and flag officer nominees over his opposition to the Protection Division’s lately introduced journey and depart insurance policies for troops looking for abortions.
The senator has prompt he might drop his objection to the nominees if he’s granted a vote on the Pentagon coverage. Not like the VA coverage, the Pentagon one just isn’t topic to the CRA as a result of the division used a unique mechanism to implement it.
Tuberville stated Wednesday there was no progress on the deadlock over the nominees, suggesting conversations on the subject had been on the “backburner” whereas the Senate thought of his VA decision.
— Rebecca Kheel could be reached at [email protected]. Observe her on Twitter @reporterkheel.
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