“Texas Nurse Sues Veterans Affairs Department Over Abortion Services Rule”

Abortion Services Rule

“Texas Nurse Sues Veterans Affairs Department Over Abortion Services Rule”

A federal lawsuit filed by Stephanie Carter, an Army veteran and nurse at a Texas Veterans Affairs (VA) facility, challenges the VA’s new rule requiring its medical centers to offer abortions and related counseling (Pazanowski & Rozen, 2022). The lawsuit argues that the rule infringes health professionals’ religious liberties, and is the first case of its kind to challenge the VA’s allowance of abortions at its health facilities in very limited circumstances (Pazanowski & Rozen, 2022).

The rule allows pregnant veterans and some of their direct family members to receive abortions at a VA health facility if carrying the pregnancy to term threatens the patient’s life or health. Service members and direct family members would also be eligible if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, and the VA would provide the treatment even in a state where criteria to receive the procedure is more restrictive, such as in Texas or Alabama (Pazanowski & Rozen, 2022).

Carter said that her Christian beliefs prevent her from performing, prescribing, or counseling for abortions and from working in a facility that offers nonemergency abortion services (Pazanowski & Rozen, 2022). The VA rule doesn’t account for religious objections, and there’s currently no process for considering accommodation requests, she says (Pazanowski & Rozen, 2022). The nurse also is facing possible criminal prosecution in Texas if forced to provide abortion-related services because abortion is illegal there except in limited circumstances (Pazanowski & Rozen, 2022).

Carter argues that the VA needs clear approval from Congress to facilitate abortions, an authorization that President Joe Biden didn’t have when he moved to allow VA hospitals to provide abortions (Pazanowski & Rozen, 2022). The rule’s application to Carter has deprived and will continue to deprive her of her “paramount rights and guarantees” under the US Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the complaint says (Pazanowski & Rozen, 2022).

The lawsuit is based on two causes of action, namely the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and First Amendment’s free exercise clause (Pazanowski & Rozen, 2022). Carter is seeking relief from the court to declare the rule invalid as applied to her, enjoin the agency from enforcing the rule against her and Temple facility, as well as costs and attorney’s fees (Pazanowski & Rozen, 2022).

In response to the lawsuit, the VA’s press secretary, Terrence Hayes, said in a statement that the VA provides an accommodation for VA employees who wish to opt out of providing abortion counseling or services (Pazanowski & Rozen, 2022). Hayes also noted that the agency has provided all VA health-care employees with opt-out information and encouraged them to inform their supervisors of any requests for exemptions (Pazanowski & Rozen, 2022).

In conclusion, the federal lawsuit filed by Stephanie Carter challenges the VA’s new rule requiring its medical centers to offer abortions and related counseling on the grounds of religious liberties (Pazanowski & Rozen, 2022). This case highlights the need for clear guidelines and processes for considering accommodation requests for health professionals who have religious objections to providing certain medical services.

Reference: Pazanowski, M. A., & Rozen, C. (2022, December 14). Texas Veterans Affairs Nurse Sues to Stop Abortion Services Rule. Bloomberg Law. https://news.bloomberglaw.com/health-law-and-business/texas-veterans-affairs-nurse-sues-to-stop-abortion-services-rule

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