COMPASS: Abortion at the Veterans Administration

July 20th, 2023

Good afternoon from Capitol Hill.

The House and Senate are in session this week. The House, having processed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), is moving towards appropriations. The Senate will take up their version of the NDAA this week and likely finish next week.

The House Rules Committee, earlier this week, posted the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2024 (frequently referred to as just Milcon/VA). This appropriations bill provides the funding for these agencies. Usually, the Military Construction portion usually attracts a slew of earmark requests (here were the earmarks that were included in this year’s bill). But an issue that conservatives are still working through, is the issue of the Biden-Harris Veterans Affairs Abortion Rule.

The Biden-Harris rule would provide taxpayer funded abortion services, through the Veterans Affairs healthcare system, even in states where pro-life policies are in place. As Lila Rose of LiveAction pointed out in early September of last year, “Section 106 of the Veterans Health Care Act of 1992 directs the Veterans Administration (VA) to provide women with “general reproductive health care … not including … abortions.” Simply stated, this rule stands in direct violation of the law. Earlier this year Congressman Michael Cloud and Senator James Lankford introduced legislation to overturn this rule. The Senate held a vote on this earlier this year and it failed 48-51. The House has yet to directly weigh in on the matter.

The Veterans Administration, prior to this rule, had never performed abortions. Then in September of 2022, the VA announced that they had performed their first abortion. According to Life News, “A department leader estimated about 1,000 unborn babies will be aborted every year under the new rule.”

Fast forward to just a couple months back. Conservatives on the House Appropriations Committee brought much needed attention to this issue in committee. During the markup of FY 2024 spending bills in the Appropriations Committee, conservatives were able to ensure that abortions would only be performed if certain exceptions could be met. Conservatives in the House know there is still work to be done. This is why conservative Congressman Andy Ogles has offered an amendment to the bill that would strip out the “exceptions” that were inserted into the bill in Committee – effectively fully ending the abortion rule. If Rep. Ogles amendment is not adopted, then exceptions will be codified into the appropriations language, as opposed to defunding the rule entirely.

MilCon/VA will likely be considered after the Agriculture appropriations bill, both of which the House is hoping to push through next week. The abortion issue will not be the only flash point either. Spending levels and the use of recissions will be a key feature of the debate next week as well.

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