House Republicans are reportedly threatening to subpoena the Department of Veterans Affairs for data on its policy to provide abortions to vets in certain cases.
The VA has twice handed over the numbers of abortions it has provided for — with the most recent figures showing 54 abortions performed between September 2022, when the policy began, and April 30, Military.com reported.
But GOP House Veterans Affairs Committee members wanted quarterly updates — and a more detailed breakdown, which the VA balked at, citing privacy issues, the news outlet reported.
“The American taxpayers funding these abortion procedures at VA deserve to know how VA is carrying out the” policy, committee Chair Mike Bost, R-Ill., and Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R-Iowa, chair of the health subpanel, wrote to VA Secretary Denis McDonough.
“Failure to provide the requested information to the committee by Sept. 30, 2023, will force the committee to consider all tools at the committee’s disposal, including scheduling a vote to issue a subpoena for the requested information,” they wrote.
Military.com said it had gotten a copy of the letter ahead of its Thursday release, and that the VA said it would “respond directly” to the lawmakers.
After last year’s Supreme Court ruling allowing states to ban abortion, the VA announced it would offer the procedure in cases where a pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, or endangers the life or health of the woman.
But Republicans have pushed back at the VA’s “health” reason, arguing it goes beyond the parameters of the Hyde Amendment, which bans specific government funding going toward abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or where the life of the mother is at risk.
The VA has countered it isn’t subject to the Hyde Amendment, Military.com reported — though it hasn’t defined what health concerns would qualify a vet for an abortion.
“A woman veteran with chronic conditions may require additional monitoring during pregnancy, but that shouldn’t immediately qualify her for an abortion,” Bost and Miller-Meeks wrote, the military news outlet reported.
“Further, it is extremely disconcerting that a veteran may qualify for an abortion due to mental health concerns, and yet that veteran is not required to undergo any mental health evaluation or treatment prior to, or in the aftermath of, an abortion.”
Of the 54 abortions the VA provided as of April, 44 were because of the health of the mother, the military news outlet reported, citing a copy of the VA’s May letter.
Also, two were because the life of the mother was at risk, and eight were because the pregnancy resulted from rape. Most of the abortions were carried out with pills — 36 were medication abortions and 18 were surgical abortions, the outlet reported.
Republicans argue that the VA policy violates a 1992 law directing the department to provide reproductive healthcare except for “infertility services, abortions or pregnancy care” unless the care is needed because of a service-connected condition.
Supporters of the VA policy, however, maintain abortion is allowed under a 1996 law requiring the department to give “needed” medical care to veterans.
In January and again in March, Bost and Miller-Meeks asked that the VA provide documents detailing just how many abortions were performed at each Veteran Integrated Service Network; the trimester in which each was done; and, in cases where the abortion was performed for health concerns, what the health issue was, Military.com reported.
The VA responded by providing top-line numbers, but argued that providing as much detail as the lawmakers requested would allow the patients to be identified.
In their letter, Bost and Miller-Meeks said they consider protecting patient privacy “an utmost priority,” but that the information they’re requesting is necessary to decide whether the committee needs to take up “targeted legislation.”
“Committee staff have reiterated our request for this information in weekly phone calls with VA,” they wrote.
“We have yet to receive any information. … As of Sept. 14, 2023, we are still waiting for an adequate response to our letters.”
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