A statement by the Justice Department released on Wednesday confirmed that states may not penalize employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for facilitating abortions that are permitted under federal law.
The Justice Department release backed up a rule published by the VA last week that would allow its employees access to abortion in cases of rape, incest or danger to the life of the pregnant parent.
“The rule issued by the Department of Veterans Affairs on Reproductive Health Services is a lawful exercise of VA’s authority,” the Justice Department wrote.
“States may not impose criminal or civil liability on VA employees—including doctors, nurses, and administrative staff—who provide or facilitate abortions or related services in a manner authorized by federal law, including VA’s rule.”
The Justice Department cited the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution, which gives federal laws priority over state laws, to bolster its claim that states are barred from penalizing “federal functions” of the VA.
The release specifically mentions that states may not penalize VA employees “through criminal prosecution, license revocation proceedings, or civil litigation.”
The VA allowed its first abortion procedure after the new rule to be performed this week, according to NBC News.
Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough confirmed to senators on Wednesday night that the abortion had been performed.