VA to Allow Religious Accommodations for Employees Opposed to Abortions

The VA will allow religious accommodations for federal employees opposed to participating in the agency’s abortion services.

The Department of Veterans Affairs will offer a nationwide religious accommodation process for federal employees at the agency who are opposed to abortions on the basis of their religion.

The announcement comes in response to a lawsuit brought by Stephanie Carter, nurse practitioner at the Olin E. Teague Veterans’ Center in Temple, Texas. She sued the Biden administration after the VA announced last year that it would begin providing abortion services, even in states where abortions are not legal.

The lawsuit stated, “Because of her religious beliefs, Ms. Carter 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, in her view, unborn babies are created in the image of God and should be protected.”

In an announcement on July 24, 2023, First Liberty Institute, the law firm representating Carter, said that the VA will begin offering the religious accommodation process because of their case against the agency.

The press release adds that when Carter sought a religious accommodation in the fall of 2022 after the VA had announced its new abortion policy, she was told “that no process for such accommodations existed.”

“We’re pleased that the VA implemented a nationwide policy to protect the religious liberty rights of all VA employees,” said Danielle Runyan, Senior Counsel for First Liberty Institute. “Stephanie Carter is living proudly by her faith and should not be forced to choose between her faith and her career. Because of her courage, every VA employee in the nation can now seek a religious accommodation from participating in a procedure they find unconscionable.”

VA Says Religious Accommodation Was There All Along

The Washington Times reported that the VA claims that a religious accommodation process for the abortion services has existed all along, but, says the Times, the facts suggest otherwise.

“…if the accommodation has always existed, it was not communicated to Stephanie Carter, the Texas nurse practitioner who sued over the issue in December; First Liberty Institute, the conservative Christian legal nonprofit that represented her; or The Washington Times, which has repeatedly requested comment on the issue,” wrote The Washington Times.

The article adds, “What’s more, Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis R. McDonough failed to mention the existence of religious accommodation when asked about the Carter lawsuit at a press conference in March.”

Holly Randall, associate counsel at First Liberty Institute, concurred. She told The Washington Times, “The VA has made many claims about having an accommodation process, but the fact remains that Stephanie asked repeatedly about an accommodation and was told repeatedly by her supervisor that there was no process or more information would be made available at some vague point in the future. Regardless, the VA was not granting accommodation or making their supervisors aware of what was in place.”

VA Abortion Services

The VA announced it would begin offering abortion counseling and abortions in September 2022 via an interim final rule published in the Federal Register. The agency claimed abortion services are medically necessary for patient safety. It said that abortions would be offered “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.”

An agency press release announcing the policy states:

Restricting access to abortion care has well-documented adverse health consequences, including increased risk of loss of future fertility, significant morbidity, or death. Veterans are also at greater risk of experiencing pregnancy-related complications due to increased rates of chronic health conditions. Therefore, to protect the life and health of pregnant Veterans and eligible beneficiaries, VA determined that it was necessary to provide access to abortion counseling and — in some cases — abortions.

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.