Woman Who Helped Overturn Roe Leads Fight Against Veterans Affairs

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A woman who was instrumental in the overturning of Roe v. Wade has filed an amicus brief with other pro-life elected officials in opposition of abortion policies at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that allegedly overrule religious liberties and states’ rights.

Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch and 17 other attorneys general filed an amicus brief Tuesday in the Western District of Texas in the case of Carter v. McDonough. The brief supports 23-year VA nurse practitioner Stephanie Carter, a self-described Christian who is employed at the Olin E. Teague Veterans’ Center in Temple, Texas—which serves more than 7,000 female patients annually.

In addition to Mississippi, the brief was joined by attorneys general from Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and West Virginia.

“In direct contravention of the Supreme Court‘s opinion in Dobbs, President Biden has taken abortion policy away from state legislators, Congress, and, most importantly, the people and given it to political appointees in his own administration,” Fitch said. “The Dobbs decision was about the rule of law. This VA rule is precisely the opposite.”

Legal filings from the U.S. Army veteran’s initial lawsuit filed December 13 stated that Carter cannot “cannot perform, prescribe, or counsel for abortions, or work in a facility that performs abortion services for reasons other than to save the life of the mother because…unborn babies are created in the image of God and should be protected.”

Carter’s lawsuit was filed by the First Liberty Institute, a nonprofit Christian conservative legal group based in Texas.

The lawsuit stemmed from a VA rule that began in September to “provide access to abortion counseling and—in certain cases—abortions to pregnant veterans and VA beneficiaries.” That includes abortion access when the life or health of the pregnant veteran would be endangered if the pregnancy were carried to term, or when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.

The amicus brief claims the VA does not have the legal authority it claimed to use in support of this rule. The attorneys general wrote that “rather than respect the Constitution and the Supreme Court’s decision, the Biden Administration has sought to wrest control over abortion back from the people.”

“This is a patient safety decision,” said VA Secretary Denis McDonough, the defendant in the lawsuit, at that time. “Pregnant Veterans and VA beneficiaries deserve to have access to world-class reproductive care when they need it most. That’s what our nation owes them, and that’s what we at VA will deliver.”

Lynn Fitch Attorney General Veteran Affairs Abortion
Mississippi Attorney General is one of 18 total state attorneys general to file an amicus brief against the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) due to a previous lawsuit alleging that the VA has ignored religious exemptions. The amicus brief alleges that the VA and Biden administration has taken states’ rights out of their own hands with policies announced last September.
Mississippi Attorney General’s Office/Getty Images

Dr. Shereef Elnahal, VA’s undersecretary for health, said the decision was reached after hearing concerns from VA healthcare providers and veterans across the country “who sounded the alarm that abortion restrictions are creating a medical emergency for those we serve.”

In a brief filed Tuesday, McDonough maintained the VA policy should remain in effect and alleged that Carter was specifically informed that she is not required to personally provide abortion care, including performing, prescribing, or counseling for abortion.

New VA guidelines issued earlier this month clarified the religious exemption process for staffers at facilities that perform abortions, Military Times reported.

Memos included updated provisions as part of the existing policy that “physicians, residents, fellows, and medical students may, for any reason, opt out of performing induced abortions, receiving or providing training in the performance of induced abortions, providing referrals for such training or such abortions, or making arrangements for training or performance of induced abortions.”

McDonough’s brief alleged that Carter’s seeking an injunction against the Temple VA facility’s provision “of any abortions, even when Ms. Carter does not personally participate—because Ms. Carter now asserts that she has a religious objection to working at a facility that provides abortions for reasons other than to save the life of the pregnant patient.”

It also alleged that Carter never raised an objection prior to her filing the lawsuit, nor did she respond to the VA accommodating her concerns by transferring her to a different facility, such as an administrative or specialized-care facility.

“From day one, Secretary McDonough has made clear to all employees that their religious beliefs are protected here at VA,” VA Press Secretary Terrence Hayes said in a statement provided to Newsweek. “VA continues to provide accommodations for VA employees who wish to opt out of providing abortion counseling or services.”

That stance is disagreed with by former VA Secretary Robert Wilkie and the America First Policy Institute’s Constitutional Litigation Partnership and Center for American Security, which filed its own amicus brief.

“The unlawful enforcement of the VA’s new abortion rule further proves that the current administration is willing to ignore the law, violate religious liberties, and force its policies on the American people,” Wilkie said. “The very existence of the Administrative Procedures Act is to ensure a lawful, orderly, and proper process in developing agency-wide rules. A process, in this case, that the Biden Administration chose to ignore.”

A White House fact sheet published November 11 states that “Biden-Harris Administration is committed to addressing and providing resources for the specialized health care needs of women veterans including increasing cancer screenings, improving mental health care and access, addressing infertility and reducing intimate partner violence.”

Fitch’s office had no further comment for Newsweek other than to acknowledge that the amicus brief had been accepted by the court.

Attorneys for McDonough declined to comment, referring Newsweek to the legal brief filed on McDonough’s behalf earlier this week.

Newsweek reached out to the White House and lawyers for Wilkie for comment.

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