Joe Manchin Sides With GOP in Battle Over Military Veterans’ Abortion Policy

The senator joined his Republican colleagues in stalling a key position at the Veterans Administration because they're pissed the VA offers abortion counseling.

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Joe Manchin Sides With GOP in Battle Over Military Veterans’ Abortion Policy
Photo:Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc (Getty Images)

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) has joined Republicans on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee in blocking the nomination of lawyer Anjali Chaturvedi to general counsel at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Politico reported Thursday that Manchin and the Republican cohort believe the department overstepped its authority when it instituted a policy in 2022 to provide abortion care and counseling to veterans.

The policy that has Manchin and all these Republicans in knots merely allows the V.A. to provide some abortions for pregnant vets and dependents, and by some they mean, when the life of the patient is at risk or if the pregnancy was caused by rape or incest.

Chaturvedi is a deputy assistant assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice’s criminal unit. Because of the committee’s party lines, Democrats need Manchin’s vote to advance her nomination. A Manchin spokesperson declined to say if the senator opposes Chaturvedi’s nomination.

“Senator Manchin [has] made clear that the VA’s current abortion policy is a blatant violation of federal law and he continues to urge the Administration to restore the commonsense protections we’ve had in place for decades to ensure federal dollars cannot be used to fund abortions,” the spokesperson told Politico.

The anti-abortion provision group believes a 1992 policy that bans the government from providing abortions to veterans is still in place. However, Democratic senators have argued that a 1996 law that mandated a national system of veterans health care does allow the agency to provide abortions. “VA is taking this action because it has determined that providing access to abortion-related medical services is needed to protect the lives and health of veterans,” the department wrote in the memo explaining its new rule in September 2022.

Chaturvedi’s hearing for confirmation was in July 2022 after a June nomination by President Joe Biden. Ranking committee member Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) requested written answers about how she felt about abortion policy, per Politico, but the magazine reported that Republicans hadn’t found her written answers “sufficient.” So she was then grilled by the GOP and took a tactful approach common in confirmation hearings to say she hadn’t yet “fully stud[ied]” the new policy. She added that she planned to study abortion law “very closely” as it applies to the Department as there are roughly 300,000 people capable of becoming pregnant who access VA services.

Since then, her confirmation has stalled. In a press conference last week, VA Secretary Denis McDonough said having a confirmed person in the role was “meaningful” to make “sure that we’re carrying out our business consistent with the statutory obligations of the agency.”

Manchin’s defection to the Republican cohort isn’t the only abortion snafu in the Senate. Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) is still holding up high-level military confirmations because the Pentagon agreed to a travel policy for its employees who need to travel and/or take time off for an abortion. After months of his blockade, the Senate was finally able to confirm leaders to the top military roles. On Sept. 21st, the Senate confirmed Air Force Gen. CQ Brown, Jr. as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Gen. Randy A. George as Army chief of staff; and Gen. Eric M. Smith as Marine Corps commandant. The Associated Press reported that there are still more than 300 nominations pending.

It seems that members of the military and former military members will continue to have their rights questioned by dudes who spent days arguing over a dress code.

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