McDonough says VA looking at abortion care options in states with new restrictions

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough on Sunday said his department is examining how to best protect abortion access to veterans after the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, but he declined to provide a specific path forward.

CNN “State of the Union” co-anchor Jake Tapper asked McDonough to respond to a letter from 24 Senate Democrats calling on the department to allow abortion services at veteran hospitals.

“We’re going to make sure that they have access to the full slate of that care, because that’s what we owe them,” McDonough said.

The letter, led by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), argues that the VA has statutory authority to provide abortions. The senators said the department should immediately begin a rulemaking process to change current regulations, which prevent it from providing abortions and abortion counseling as part of its medical benefits package.

When asked on Sunday if the VA would pay for veterans living in states with abortion restrictions to fly to areas where they can receive an abortion, McDonough declined to say.

“We’re looking expressly at these questions about how we guarantee the life and the health of our veterans, our women veterans, those 300,000 who rely on us for their care,” McDonough said. 

“I don’t have any announcements to make on that this morning, Jake, but we’re looking very closely at that to ensure that there’s no diminution and no reduction of services to them,” he added.

The Supreme Court’s decision last month overturning the constitutional right to abortion has set off a flurry of so-called trigger laws and other bills in state legislatures that restrict abortion access, also fueling intense fury among Democrats.

“My preference is that they not face risk to their lives as a result of this decision from the court,” McDonough said on CNN “We’re going to make sure that we’re in a position to take care of them.”