Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) joined Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and 24 other colleagues in a letter to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) calling for immediate action to ensure access to abortion related services to veterans and eligible dependents. Following the far-right Supreme Court’s disastrous Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade, over 800,000 veterans—or half of women veterans in this country—live in states that are certain or likely to ban abortions.
Under current VA regulations, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is prohibited from providing abortions and abortion counseling as part of the medical benefits package. In a letter sent to VA Secretary Denis McDonough, the members highlight that because the VA has the statutory authority to provide abortions, it must immediately begin a rulemaking process to change the current regulations and update the VHA’s medical benefit package to provide abortion and abortion-related services. The letter highlights that Secretary McDonough also recently expressed that the VA has the statutory authority to provide abortions.
“Last month’s disastrous Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturned the nearly fifty-year precedent established by Roe v. Wade and removed constitutional protection for abortion access from millions of individuals in this country, including an ever-growing number of veterans and dependents who are able to become pregnant,” write the lawmakers. “This decision makes it even more critical that veterans receive access to the reproductive care to which they are entitled. Thus, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) must urgently begin rulemaking to allow veterans and eligible dependents to receive abortions and all abortion-related services.”
The full text of the letter can be found here.
Senator Cortez Masto introduced historic legislation in the Senate to reaffirm women’s constitutional right to travel across state lines to seek abortion access and protect the providers and others who support them. She has repeatedly called Congress to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act, legislation she cosponsored to guarantee equal access to abortion everywhere. Senator Cortez Masto has been a leader in the Senate in both supporting both our veterans and pushing for women’s access to reproductive care. She most recently introduced a bipartisan bill to provide peer support to veteran survivors of military sexual trauma so that they have access to trained peer support specialists within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). In addition, she supported the Solid Start Act to strengthen the VA’s Solid Start program which contacts veterans by phone after they leave active duty service to help connect them to VA programs and benefits. The bill would codify the program and help ensure that women veterans are getting the critical information they need.