What to Know in Washington: Biden’s VA Abortion Plan Falls Flat

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President Joe Biden‘s move to allow Department of Veterans Affairs facilities to provide abortions in limited circumstances is barely expanding access to the procedure nationwide, even as conservatives seek to block the option in court and Congress.

The VA provided just 34 abortions from September, when the agency released the new policy, through February, according to a VA letter to members of Congress that was obtained by Bloomberg Government. That’s far below the department’s estimate that it would provide or pay for 1,000 in the policy’s first year.

The slow traction of the VA’s new policy demonstrates how few tools Biden has to significantly broaden access to abortion over the opposition of Congress and federal judges. Separately, the Senate is scheduled to vote Wednesday on whether to block the VA policy.

Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Biden speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House yesterday.

Few pregnant veterans even qualify to receive an abortion at the agency’s medical centers because the VA’s conditions to receive one are so strict. And even if they do meet the criteria, patients may not turn to VA health providers to terminate a pregnancy because they don’t know it’s available or decide to go elsewhere, say veterans, former VA staff, and national abortion advocates.

Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), with the support of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.), is leading the Senate effort to end the VA policy. The legislation needs only a simple majority of senators voting to pass but it’s still unlikely to become law because it lacks enough support to override a presidential veto.

“We’re just trying to get them to go by the rule of law,” Tuberville said. “It’s not about abortion. The VAs aren’t set up for abortions. They’re going to have to spend a lot of money to be able to do it.” Courtney Rozen has the story.

Biden Under GOP Pressure


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On the Agenda in Congress


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  • The Senate gathers at 10 a.m. to resume consideration of a bill to reauthorize firefighter grant programs and the US Fire Administration.

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  • Thomas’ Gifts: Democratic lawmaker’s concerns that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas failed to publicly report trips and a property deal tied to a Republican donor have been forwarded to a US judiciary panel that handles financial disclosures, a a top judiciary administrative official said. Read more.
  • Chinese Military: US defense officials warned lawmakers at a House Armed Services Committee hearing about the growing risks of Chinese military power and the need to accelerate US development of hypersonic weapons. Read more

Ahead of the 2024 Election

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To contact the reporter on this story: Michaela Ross in Washington at mross@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Andrew Small at asmall@bgov.com; Kayla Sharpe at ksharpe@bloombergindustry.com

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