Less than a month after the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that its hospitals will begin committing abortions on female veterans, VA Under Secretary for Health Shereef Elnahal has revealed that women who are not veterans — in other words, civilians — could undergo abortions there, too.
During a press conference, Elnahal said if a woman is experiencing emergency pregnancy complications, she could get an abortion at a VA hospital, even if she is not a veteran. “We don’t wait for confirmation of veterans’ status,” he said. “We have the ability and do save the person’s life. This applies to anybody, in a setting of trauma or an emergency that needs lifesaving emergency care.”
This stance is based on the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA), which the Biden administration has claimed allows hospitals to commit abortions, even in states in which preborn children are protected by law from violent abortion procedures. Previously, Biden’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) tried to force Texas hospitals that receive federal funding to commit abortions, citing EMTALA, but this attempt to circumvent state law was blocked by a federal judge.
U.S. District Judge James Wesley Hendrix explained that this effort by the HHS went beyond what is allowed in EMTALA, and disagreed with the Biden administration’s stance that abortions can be required under some circumstances. Hendrix wrote that the order “goes well beyond EMTALA’s text, which protects both mothers and unborn children, is silent as to abortion, and preempts state law only when the two directly conflict.”
READ: Definitions matter: Is an ‘abortion to save a woman’s life’ truly an abortion?
The HHS also released a statement over the summer saying that hospitals are required to perform life-saving procedures on pregnant women — a clear attempt to make access to abortion a requirement, even in pro-life states despite the fact that pro-life laws include an exception for the life of the mother. The statement said:
“If a physician believes that a pregnant patient presenting at an emergency department is experiencing an emergency medical condition as defined by EMTALA, and that abortion is the stabilizing treatment necessary to resolve that condition, the physician must provide that treatment. When a state law prohibits abortion and does not include an exception for the life of the pregnant person — or draws the exception more narrowly than EMTALA’s emergency medical condition definition — that state law is preempted.”
Induced abortion is never a necessary stabilizing treatment. Doctors do not deliberately need to kill babies in order to save women; they just need to end the pregnancy, which can be done safely through means other than intentional killing, such as early emergency delivery. The American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists notes in its literature:
There is a night and day difference between induced abortion and separating a mother and her unborn child for the purposes of saving a mother’s life (preterm parturition). There are times when separating the mother and her unborn child is necessary to save the life of the mother, even if the unborn child is too premature to live. In those tragic cases, if possible the life of the baby will be attempted to be preserved, and if not possible, the body of the unborn child is treated with respect, recognizing the humanity of the life which is lost in the separation. In contrast, the purpose of an induced abortion is to produce a dead baby.
In addition, non-veterans can only access VA hospitals in cases of true emergencies; a civilian woman could not receive service over a complication or injury that did not require immediate, life-saving care. And even in cases of an emergency pregnancy complication, induced abortion — the direct, intentional killing of a preborn child — is not medically necessary.
It is true that, on some occasions, a woman may need to undergo a preterm induction delivery or a C-section to save her life, such as in cases of HELLP syndrome or eclampsia. If born too soon, the baby may not survive; but these live-saving procedures are not the same as an abortion, in which the preborn child is directly and intentionally killed.
This latest statement from Elnahal and the VA is alarming because it raises the possibility that the Biden administration is attempting to use both EMTALA and the VA to circumvent state pro-life laws.
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