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Hirono, Warren, Murray, Duckworth Applaud Landmark Abortion Access Measure for Veterans Amid Republican Attacks

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, U.S. Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Patty Murray (D-WA), and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) condemned Republican attacks on the Biden Administration’s landmark decision last week to allow the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) to provide abortion care to veterans and their eligible dependents to protect the health and life of the woman and in cases of rape or incest. The action comes after Senators Hirono and Warren led Senators Murray, Duckworth and 21 Democratic colleagues in urging the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to immediately begin providing abortion services for veterans and eligible dependents following the far-right Supreme Court’s disastrous Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade.

Because of the Dobbs decision, over 800,000—or half of women veterans in this country—live in states that are certain or likely to ban abortions. Prior to last week’s announcement, VA was prohibited from providing any abortion care or abortion counseling. Despite the landmark step forward to protect women’s health, Republicans have stated they will seek to block the VA’s efforts to provide abortion care in medical emergencies or case of rape or incest. Republicans in Congress have made clear they are “working to put a stop to” the policy announced by the Biden Administration, and Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall has even vowed to enforce his state’s abortion ban against VA doctors providing care in accordance with the new rule.

“Following the Supreme Court’s disastrous ruling overturning the right to an abortion, nearly half of female veterans in this country live in states that are certain or likely to ban abortion, which is why we led our colleagues in calling on the VA to provide abortion services to the veterans it serves. We’re glad to see the VA quickly heeding our calls to begin offering abortion services in instances of rape, incest, and the life of a mother. This decision is an important step—one that will save lives,” said Senator Hirono. “But instead of applauding the VA, Republicans are falsely claiming that this ruling is ‘contrary to long-standing, settled law.’ They are using fear and confusion to sow chaos and deprive women of their fundamental rights, instead of standing up for the veterans who have served our country. It’s shameful—and we’ll keep fighting back every day.”

“As Republican politicians strip away abortion rights, I'm glad that the Biden admin and the VA are taking critical steps to protect veterans’ rights to an abortion,” said Senator Warren. “I'm going to keep working with my colleagues to ensure the VA has the tools it needs to protect abortion care for all veterans.” 

“Last week, when the Biden Administration announced that for the first time ever VA will be able to provide abortion care to ensure none of our veterans or their eligible dependents will have to face medical emergencies, or stay pregnant after a rape or incest, I was excited to see meaningful progress to protect the right to abortion,” said Senator Murray. “And I was enraged to see yet another cruel, extreme reaction from anti-abortion Republicans who quickly made clear they want to block this proposal and take this care away from our veterans. It should be shocking to all of us that Republicans would put their own political ideology ahead of the wellbeing of our veterans—those who served our country in uniform and who put their lives on the line to keep us safe.”

“I applaud Secretary McDonough’s leadership to help make sure that our Veterans have full access to the healthcare they need—including abortions. This decision could both save lives and enhance military recruitment and readiness,” said Senator Duckworth. “Our Veterans—who often have higher rates of chronic health conditions—have sacrificed the unimaginable for our nation and the last thing they should worry about is that our country will abandon them, risk their health and deny their fundamental rights. Just as we owe our Veterans the right to pursue having a family however they choose, we owe the heroes who risked everything overseas access to medically necessary care back at home—and for some Veterans, that includes abortions—and I’ll keep working to make sure this right is protected for all Americans.”

The lawmakers were joined by Allison Jaslow, an Iraq War veteran and co-founder of Operation Liberty, a veteran-led, non-partisan effort to protect the reproductive freedom of U.S. servicemembers and veterans after the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe.

“Thanks to action from the Administration, women veterans in states like Texas, Oklahoma, and Alabama - whether they were a patient of the VA before now or not- will now have somewhere to turn to get the reproductive health care that they may need, have earned, and deserve,” said Jaslow. “It's also heartening to see in the guidance that was issued last week, how much trust the VA is putting in patients who are seeking care, and the physicians they are getting that care from. This is a long-overdue policy change, but a necessary one in this moment of crisis. Make no mistake, this decision will save lives, and lawmakers who are vowing to fight to ensure that a total ban on abortion remains at the VA are misguided at best, and at worst, attacking veterans healthcare in an effort to advance a broader ideological agenda. Either way, it's unacceptable.”

"Veterans and their families have always faced unique barriers to abortion access. But  following the devastating Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, abortion care has become even more difficult for veterans across the country to access," said Lindsay Church, Executive Director of Minority Veterans of America. "This reality disproportionately harms racial and ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+ people, and service members, veterans, and their families living in poverty. The Department of Veterans Affairs has taken critical measures to lift restrictions that once made it impossible to get access to abortion counseling and care through VA, in order to provide services in the cases of rape, incest, and threats to the life and health of the patient. While we support the Department's efforts to expand care regardless of state law, VA can and must do more to protect a patient's right to make decisions for their own bodies, no matter their circumstance. Veterans fought for rights they are now being denied and it's on our policymakers to protect these rights swiftly and without delay."