WASHINGTON (CNS) — The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Archdiocese for the Military Services have filed a joint statement objecting to a rule proposed by the Biden administration to allow abortions to be performed on demand in health programs administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“The interim final rule allows abortions, including elective abortions, in VA programs through nine months of pregnancy,” said the statement, dated Sept. 21.
“That abortion is permitted through all nine months of pregnancy can be inferred from the rule’s failure to place any gestational limit on the availability of abortion in VA programs,” it added.
On Sept. 1, the VA submitted to the Federal Register an interim final rule allowing the VA to provide access to abortion counseling and — in certain cases — abortions to pregnant veterans and VA beneficiaries, according to a Sept. 2 news release from the VA.
“In our view, there are at least three problems with the interim final rule,” the USCCB and military archdiocese said in their statement.
“First, the department has no statutory authority to adopt it,” the statement said. “Second, the rule represents a violation of conditions Congress has placed on the availability of taxpayer funds and government facilities for abortions.
“Third, the rule will facilitate the taxpayer-funded destruction of innocent human lives and harm the women it is intended to benefit.”
Once the rule was published Sept. 9 by the Federal Register, the VA began immediately to provide these services “in as many locations as possible.”
At the same time, a 30-day period for public comment began, during which the VA was considering making the rule permanent.
The USCCB and the military archdiocese filed its joint statement objecting to the interim rule electronically.
In its news release, the VA said the department specifically “will provide access to abortions when the life or health of the pregnant veteran would be endangered if the pregnancy were carried to term, or when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest,” the VA release said.
The statement from the USCCB and the military archdiocese said: “Given the broad construction ordinarily given the term ‘health’ in the abortion context, a rule permitting abortion for reasons of health without further qualification or limitation has generally been understood to permit abortion on demand.”
The VA said beneficiaries enrolled in the VA’s Civilian Health and Medical Program “will also have access to this care.”
“This is a patient safety decision,” VA Secretary Denis McDonough said in a statement. “Pregnant veterans and VA beneficiaries deserve to have access to world-class reproductive care when they need it most. That’s what our nation owes them, and that’s what we at VA will deliver.”
The VA action is one of several initiatives the Biden administration has announced to provide abortions to women since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled June 24 to overturn Roe v. Wade and return the issue of abortion to the states.
After the ruling, which he called “tragic” and “a sad day for the country,” President Joe Biden formed a task force to study how his administration can fight for and support a woman’s so-called right to an abortion.
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The VA interim rule as published by the Federal Register can be found online here. The joint USCCB-Archdiocese for the Military Services statement can be found online here.