November 07, 2022

Chairman Takano Releases Majority Staff Report on Women Veterans’ Reproductive Healthcare

RIVERSIDE, CA – Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano (D-Calif.) released a Majority Staff report on women veterans’ access to reproductive healthcare. The report summarizes key findings from the Committee’s reproductive healthcare oversight initiative which included meeting with women veterans and executive leaders at VA facilities in four states and the Committee’s September 15, 2022, oversight hearing. It also includes recommendations to inform the ongoing efforts of VA leaders and policymakers to expand and strengthen veterans’ access to reproductive healthcare. 

“More than two million living women veterans have fought for and defended our country’s core founding principle: freedom,” said Chairman Takano. “It is why they served, and it is why they continue to serve in greater numbers than ever before. There is no doubt women veterans deserve our nation’s gratitude and appreciation, but more importantly, they deserve access to the comprehensive health care and benefits they’ve earned, including reproductive healthcare.”

Repro Report Cover
Read the full report here

Key findings from VA facility visits included:

  • Within VA, strong facility leadership was essential to successfully implementing the new IFR on reproductive healthcare. 
  • There was a consensus among women’s health providers and staff focused on women’s health that VA should fully provide abortion and abortion counseling to veterans. 
  • Unfortunately, some VA employees were under-informed about existing VA policies that could impact reproductive healthcare and there was a strong demand signal from executive leaders and women’s health clinical staff that more detailed, state-specific guidance from VA Central Office would be invaluable for navigating the post-Dobbs landscape. 
  • Overlapping federal and state laws have resulted in an ambiguous array of law enforcement jurisdictional status that has left VA medical facilities uncertain of how employees or veterans might be targeted by local or state authorities seeking to enforce state laws. 
  • VA lacks sufficient data for monitoring ongoing and projecting future demand for abortion services.

Listening sessions with veterans:
The Committee also held several listening sessions with veterans. These sessions were filled with visceral, compelling, and unfiltered accounts of how women veterans have been left on their own to navigate their reproductive healthcare decisions. They revealed:

  • Frustration by women veterans with being seen, heard, and treated appropriately in VA facilities and the ongoing lack of basic parity between VA healthcare for men and women veterans. 
  • Concerns over their reproductive care, challenges with care coordination when utilizing community providers, recurring harassment due to a lack of gender-specific areas in VA medical facilities. 
  • Overwhelmingly, veterans participating in these listening sessions expressed strong support for the provision of reproductive healthcare at VA and characterized the lack of such care at VA with words like “betrayed,” and “disrespected,” and phrases like “wait another 25 years for this to course correct.”

Among the key recommendations for VA and Congress:

  • VA should prioritize building capacity to deliver abortion care to veterans in states where abortion is banned or significantly restricted. 
  • VA should collect better data on veterans’ pregnancy histories and outcomes, including live births, miscarriages, preterm births, stillbirths, and abortions—for those receiving maternity care both inside and out of VA.
  • Congress should codify VA’s authority to furnish abortions.
  • Congress should eliminate contraceptive co-pays for veterans. 

The report was part of the Committee’s ongoing reproductive healthcare oversight initiative announced earlier this year by Chairman Mark Takano (D-Calif.) and Subcommittee on Health Chairwoman Julia Brownley (D-Calif.).

“This report should leave no doubt that women veterans deserve to be fully informed partners in their own healthcare decisions,” said Chairman Takano. “Only by expanding and strengthening veterans’ access to reproductive care at VA, can we ensure these veterans are seen, heard, and treated with the respect they have earned and deserve. Making VA a welcoming and trusting place for all who served sends a message to women veterans – and young girls who wish to serve our country – that their service is valued."

Chairman Takano also recognized the work conducted by Committee staff stating, “I thank the staff for their thorough work assembling this report and sharing their findings. I want to especially thank the women veterans, healthcare providers, and caregivers who shared their stories with Representative Brownley and myself in Oklahoma, Texas, Nevada, and Arizona. The stories and experiences they shared helped shape this report’s recommendations. I also want to thank the VA staff and leadership teams in these states for having productive conversations with the Committee about how we can better improve care for our country’s two million women veterans. I look forward to working with my congressional colleagues and VA to implement the reports recommendations.” 

Click here to read the Majority staff’s full report.