Police use metal barricades to keep protesters, demonstrators and activists apart in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Police use metal barricades to keep protesters, demonstrators and activists apart in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

VA Taking ‘Prudent’ Steps to Protect Employees Who Provide Abortions

The department announced its plans to continue offering abortions shortly after Roe v Wade was overturned in June.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is taking “prudent” steps to protect its employees who provide abortions from legal and physical attacks as the agency begins to provide the service, VA Secretary Denis Richard McDonough said Monday. 

McDonough has been adamant that the department has the legal right to provide abortions to veterans enrolled in its healthcare system in cases of rape or or when the mother’s life is at greater risk than usual. Earlier this month, the VA submitted an “interim final rule” to the White House asserting that right. And just days ago, the Justice Department announced its intention to defend VA-employed doctors, nurses, and administrative staff who facilitate abortions or related services if they are sued or prosecuted for carrying out their federal responsibilities. 

President Joe Biden has also defended the VA’s right to perform abortions, much to the ire of Republican lawmakers and pro-life advocates.

So the department is taking precautions to ensure those providing the abortions for the VA know “that the federal government will stand by them,” McDonough said at a Defense Writers Group event Monday.  

“We’re taking appropriate precautions, working with interagency, making sure that we have a good handle on what to expect,” McDonough said. He did not provide details of these steps, but did say that the VA’s police force—the largest police force of any federal agency, according to McDonough—is also closely involved. 

The VA secretary said he did not expect protests against VA providers performing abortions, but he also doesn’t not expect them. 

“I’m not suggesting that I have an expectation one way or another,” McDonough said—hence the precautions. 

The Department of Veterans Affairs provides healthcare to 300,000 veterans within the child-bearing demographic, and its reproductive-healthcare services are not limited to abortion counseling.

“We placed about 10,000 IUDs last year,” McDonough said. “We provide fertility assistance for veterans. We provide birth control assistance for veterans. We have 300,000 women veterans who now today rely on us for their healthcare, and that number will grow next year and the year after that.”  

As of late September, abortion is banned or mostly banned in 15 states, including Texas—home to 1.56 million veterans, more than any other state besides California.