ICYMI: Warren, Hirono, Murray, Duckworth Applaud Landmark Abortion Access Measure for Veterans Amid Republican Attacks
Following SCOTUS decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, roughly half of women veterans in the U.S. live in states that have or are likely to ban abortion
In July, Warren and Hirono led colleagues to call on VA to begin offering abortion services
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) condemned Republican attacks on the Biden administration’s landmark announcement last week that the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) will provide abortion care to veterans and their eligible dependents to protect the health and life of the mother and in cases of rape or incest. The action comes after Senators Warren and Hirono 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 v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision overturning Roe v. Wade.
Because of the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, nearly 400,000 women veterans of reproductive age live in states that already or are likely to ban abortions. Prior to last week’s announcement, VA regulations prohibited providing abortion care or abortion counseling except under very limited circumstances. Despite the landmark step forward to protect women’s health, Republicans have already stated they will seek to block the VA’s efforts to provide abortion care in medical emergencies or cases 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.
“As Republican politicians strip away abortion rights, I'm glad that the Biden administration and the VA are taking powerfully important steps to protect veterans’ rights to an abortion so women, not the government, can make decisions about their own bodies,” 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 and beneficiaries.”
“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.”
“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, nonpartisan effort to protect the reproductive freedom of U.S. servicemembers and veterans after the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade.
“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."
As reproductive health care is under attack from the Supreme Court and right-wing state legislatures, Senator Warren has called on the government to use every tool to protect reproductive care and freedom:
- On August 10, 2022, Senator Warren opened an investigation into how state abortion bans enacted by right-wing legislators have affected women’s access to urgent and critical pregnancy care, reproductive care, and even non-reproductive health care. She wrote to five leading organizations representing physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and other health care providers to gather more information: the American Medical Association, Physicians for Reproductive Health, National Nurses United, the American Pharmacists Association, and the American Hospital Association.
- On August 5, 2022, Senator Warren spoke on the floor of the Senate about the need to crack down on the deceptive and misleading practices employed by many crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs). Senator Warren also spoke on the need to bring the Stop Anti-Abortion Disinformation Act up for a vote. The legislation would direct the Federal Trade Commission to prohibit deceptive or misleading advertising that many CPCs use to dissuade patients from getting the reproductive care they need, including abortion care.
- On August 4, 2022, Senators Warren, Hirono, and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), outlining concrete actions HHS can take to help meet President Biden’s goal of protecting and expanding access to medication abortion.
- On July 21, 2022, Senators Warren and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) sent letters to Bark Technologies, Gaggle.net, GoGuardian, and Securly Inc., raising concerns that the software these companies use to monitor students’ online activity could be used to criminalize or punish students who are seeking information about abortion services and reproductive health care.
- On July 19, 2022, Senators Warren, Murray, and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) led a group of their Democratic colleagues in introducing the Expanding Access to Family Planning Act, a bill to protect access to critical reproductive health care services—like birth control, cancer screenings, and more—by providing a consistent and strong source of funding for the Title X Family Planning Program.
- On July 14, 2022 Senators Warren, Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), and over a dozen other Senate Democrats wrote to President Biden and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, urging them to immediately declare national and public health emergencies over Americans’ access to reproductive care.
- On July 7, 2022, Senators Warren and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) sent letters to Facebook and Instagram, calling on them to address their reported censorship of posts related to abortion services, following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade last month.
- On July 7, 2022, Senator Warren announced two key data brokers’ commitments to permanently stop selling the location data of people seeking abortion services.
- On June 23, 2022, Senators Warren and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Representatives Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.) introduced the Stop Anti-Abortion Disinformation Act, legislation that would crack down on false advertising that crisis pregnancy centers employ to dissuade patients from getting the reproductive care they need, including abortion care.
- On June 22, 2022, following the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade, Senators Warren and Smith wrote an op-ed in the New York Times laying out the next steps in the fight to protect the right to an abortion, including calling for the declaration of a public health emergency.
- On June 15, 2022, Senator Warren introduced the Health and Location Data Protection Act, legislation that bans data brokers from selling some of the most sensitive data available about everyday Americans: their health and location data.
- On June 7, 2022, Senators Warren and Murray led 23 of their Senate colleagues in a letter to President Biden urging him to immediately issue an executive order directing the federal government to develop a national plan to defend Americans’ fundamental reproductive rights, including their right to an abortion.
- On May 17, 2022, Senator Warren led thirteen of her Senate colleagues in letters to two data brokers demanding answers regarding their collection and sale of the cellphone-based location data of people who visit abortion clinics such as Planned Parenthood.
- On May 10, 2022, Senator Warren delivered a speech on the floor of the United States Senate on the need to protect the constitutional right to an abortion, pass the Women’s Health Protection Act, and fight back against Republican extremism.
- On May 9, 2022, Senator Warren wrote an op-ed in Marie Claire about the need to enshrine the right to an abortion in federal law.
- On May 3, 2022, when the draft Supreme Court opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade was leaked, Senator Warren spoke on the steps of the Supreme Court twice to activists, protestors, and the nation about the need to protect abortion rights.
- On April 28, 2022, Senator Warren delivered a floor speech to fight against Republican efforts to undermine the Title X program and threaten Americans' access to birth control, cancer screenings, HIV tests, and other health care.
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