Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, has called the federal government’s decision to make permanent a policy to provide abortion under certain circumstances “at odds with the notion that the military protects the innocent.”

On March 4, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) permanently amended its medical regulations to remove the exclusion on abortion counseling, and establish exceptions to the exclusion of abortions for those who use the department’s medical benefits package, and for those who are beneficiaries of its Civilian Health and Medical Program.

The policy has been in effect under an interim tag since 2022. The final rule goes into effect on April 3.

“The [U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs’] decision is at odds with the notion that the military protects the innocent,” Broglio told Crux in a March 6 statement. “Now, the Department which was established to care for Veterans of the United States Armed Forces through service-related disabilities and retirement, affirms its decision to join what Pope Francis called ‘hit men’ – those who choose ‘to do away with a human life to solve a problem.’”

Broglio made clear he was responding to the VA’s decision strictly in his capacity as Archbishop of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, and not in his capacity as president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Broglio said he “deplores” the VA’s decision.

“The notion that killing an unborn child can somehow be considered ‘medical or surgical care’ certainly violates the dignity of the human person and suggests that some lives are more important than others,” Broglio said. “I deplore this decision that once more removes the right to life for the defenseless and inflicts untold physical and psychological trauma on mothers.”

In April of 2023, both the archdiocese and the USCCB objected to the rule in its interim form. In particular, they argued that the Veterans Affairs Secretary exceeded his authority in expanding the definition of “medical and surgical care” to include abortion, especially considering Section 106 of the Veterans Health Care Act excludes abortion from the services the act covers.

In its comments with the final rule, the VA acknowledges that under Section 106 barred abortion provisions, however, adding that fact “did not limit VA’s authority to provide such services under any other statutory provision.” It goes on to explain that for years the department has already relied on other provisions for general pregnancy care and infertility services.

Broglio pushed back on the logic.

“Nonsensically, the Department claims that other statutes, which never mention abortion, create in their silence, a right to abortion, even though abortion is specifically prohibited within the larger statutory scheme for VA health care,” Broglio explained.

Broglio also took aim at the legal rhetoric the department used to justify the decision.

“This bald rhetoric ignores logic and basic tenets of statutory construction, and bellies a relentless ideological pursuit of abortion even when it is plainly contrary to law.”

As it’s written, the final rule does protect those – medical personnel, staff, and others – who have religious, or simply conscience, objections to abortion from adhering to the rule by stating that it “adheres to all applicable Federal laws relating to employee rights and protections, including protections based on an employee’s religious or conscience-based objection to abortion.”

Broglio said he expects this will remain the case.

“It is expected that the Department of Veteran Affairs will at least respect the conscience rights of medical personnel, staff, and other employees and permit them to abstain from any involvement in immoral procedures,” Broglio said.