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DOJ says states can’t penalize VA doctors and nurses for abortions allowed by federal law

States cannot impose civil or criminal penalties on Department of Veterans Affairs doctors and nurses who provide abortion services which are allowed by federal law, a Department of Justice task force said in a fresh memo released Thursday.

Why it matters: The memo employs the VA said earlier this month it plans to supply abortions to beneficiaries when pregnancy may be the consequence of rape or incest so when birth may present a danger to a pregnant person’s health.

  • The memo said VA doctors and nurses are protected from state-imposed criminal or civil liability when providing federally sanctioned abortion by the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution.

What they’re saying: “The Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution bars state officials from penalizing VA employees for performing their federal functions, whether through criminal prosecution, license revocation proceedings, or civil litigation,” reads the memo, compiled by Christopher Schroeder, assistance attorney general of the DOJ’s Office of LAWYER.

Our thought bubble, via Axios Oriana Gonzalez: This is actually the Biden administrations latest effort to safeguard abortion access by arguing that federal law preempts state law.

  • After red states a reaction to the administrations rule on EMTALA (including Texas lawsuit), the DOJ gets before potential legal threats and asserting that states cannot invalidate VAs rule.

The picture as a whole: The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade earlier this season forced the VA to issue a fresh rule on abortions provided to veterans along with other VA beneficiaries, as a large number of states have since banned the task.

  • While VA hospitals can be found in every state and U.S. territory, the facilities themselves are federal property and their workers are federal employees.
  • Congressional Republicans led by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) the other day introduced a bill which may ban abortion nationally after 15 weeks with exceptions for situations involving rape, incest or risks to the life span and physical health of the pregnant person.

Go deeper: Judge temporarily blocks Indiana’s near-total abortion ban

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