Republican leaders from the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee are threatening to subpoena data on abortions performed at Veterans Affairs facilities if the department keeps refusing to turn over the information.
In a letter to VA Secretary Denis McDonough, committee Chairman Mike Bost, R-Ill., and health subcommittee Chairwoman Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R-Iowa, said they will schedule a vote to force the department to turn over the information if it is not released to their panel by the end of the month.
“American taxpayers funding these abortion procedures at VA deserve to know how VA is carrying out the policy,” the pair said in a statement.
The demand is the latest in a series of increasingly tense exchanges between the committee and VA leadership over the issue of abortion. In September 2022, department leaders announced plans to offer abortion access to veterans and eligible dependents in cases of rape, incest and pregnancies that endanger the life or health of an individual, saying the change was needed in the wake of numerous states limiting and outlawing the procedure.
Republican lawmakers have decried the move, saying it violates state and federal laws. Committee leaders have repeatedly asked for in-depth data on the number of abortions performed and where the procedures took place.
In May, VA officials told committee members that they had provided 54 surgical or medical abortions over the previous nine months. Of those, 10 were cases of rape, incest or imminent danger to the life of a patient. The others fell under the general category of adverse effect on the health of a veteran.
But McDonough, in response to the committee, declined to release any more specifics on the procedures, citing patient confidentiality.
Committee members have not received any updates since then. Friday’s letter dismissed VA’s privacy concerns and demanded more information, particularly on what is included in the health concerns category used to justify abortion services.
“We have yet to receive any information regarding what documented conditions led to a ‘health’ determination, which we consider an important element since VA notes the largest number of abortions performed were because of ‘health’ reasons,” the lawmakers wrote.
Congress is considering several bills which would undo VA’s abortion policy, including language attached to the annual department appropriations bill by House Republicans. The White House has threatened to veto any such legislation, saying that access to abortion is a critical reproductive health need.
Similar abortion access policies issued by the Defense Department late last year have led to a nearly seven-month standoff in the Senate over the confirmation of defense officials, leaving about 300 senior uniformed officers waiting for promotions.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.