Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., attends a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on July 11, 2023.

Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., attends a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on July 11, 2023. (Carlos Bongioanni/Stars and Stripes)

WASHINGTON — The Department of Veterans Affairs would be required to submit detailed data on abortions performed at its facilities under a bill introduced Tuesday by Sen. Tommy Tuberville.

The legislation is the latest effort by Tuberville, R-Ala., to clamp down on federal support for abortion access. He blocked senior military promotions for much of last year in a failed bid to force the Defense Department to drop its abortion access policy.

“Our veterans deserve a VA that is 100% focused on ensuring they receive timely and quality care, not on implementing [President] Joe Biden’s abortion-on-demand-agenda,” Tuberville said in a statement.

The bill would force the VA to submit quarterly reports on the number of abortions it facilitates, the method through which the abortions are being conducted, and the number of gestational weeks at which the abortions are occurring.

A companion bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R-Iowa. Tuberville’s bill is co-sponsored by eight fellow Republican senators.

The VA told lawmakers last year that it provided 88 abortions — 60 medical and 28 surgical — in the first year that it offered the procedure, from Sept. 9, 2022, to Sept. 30, 2023. The VA has refused to release updated data since then, according to Tuberville.

The VA began offering abortions to veterans and eligible dependents after the Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to an abortion in 2022 and several states either banned or severely restricted access to the procedure.

Abortions facilitated by the VA are only available in cases of rape or incest or if the mother’s life or health is at risk because of the pregnancy.

Some Republicans have argued the VA’s allowance of abortions for health risks violates the Hyde Amendment, which does not include a risk to health as a permissible reason to use federal funds for abortions.

Tuberville said the Veterans Health Care Act of 1992 prohibits the VA from providing abortion services of any kind.

“For the Biden administration to twist the law into something other than what Congress intended and force the cost on the taxpayer is a disgrace,” he said.

The VA has not defined the health risks that would qualify a veteran for an abortion but has maintained it is not one of the government agencies subject to the Hyde Amendment.

Of the 88 abortions performed from September 2022 to September 2023, 64 were because the pregnancy threatened the mother’s health.

Terrence Hayes, the VA’s press secretary, said in a statement Tuesday that the VA could not comment on the pending legislation but the agency is committed to providing comprehensive care to female veterans, including reproductive health care.

“As always, VA is committed to protecting veteran privacy and maintaining the trust between veterans and their doctors,” he said.

VA Secretary Denis McDonough has resisted attempts to pry detailed abortion data from the VA, arguing they infringe on patient privacy. He told lawmakers last year that information on how a veteran’s life could be endangered by carrying a pregnancy to term, for example, “goes to the heart of a veteran’s relationship with her doctor.”

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Svetlana Shkolnikova covers Congress for Stars and Stripes. She previously worked with the House Foreign Affairs Committee as an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellow and spent four years as a general assignment reporter for The Record newspaper in New Jersey and the USA Today Network. A native of Belarus, she has also reported from Moscow, Russia.

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