Washington Markup

One Step Closer to Extending Abortion Coverage for Peace Corps Volunteers

By Elayne Weiss, Washington Legislative Office at 3:12pm

In the past couple of weeks, we’ve seen nothing but attack after attack on women’s reproductive health. So in a welcomed change of direction, we finally have some terrific news to report. Today, the Senate bill that funds the Peace Corps program was voted out of committee with language providing abortion coverage for female volunteers in cases of life endangerment, rape or incest.

As we’ve reported in the past, Congress currently prohibits the Peace Corps from providing coverage of abortion services with no exceptions. Unlike other women who rely on the federal government for their health insurance—including stateside Peace Corps employees—female volunteers who don't even receive abortion coverage for cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment, despite the fact that these women serve in far-flung communities where safe and reliable medical care is often hard to come by.

Peace Corps volunteers deserve equity, fairness, and the same access to health care as other women. These women sacrifice so much to serve our country by giving their time and energy to aid communities in developing countries, and they shouldn’t have to sacrifice basic health care coverage as well. Bringing the treatment of these women up to the bare minimum standard afforded to other women is the very least we can do.

Earlier this year, President Obama laid the groundwork by including these exceptions in his proposed budget for FY 2014, and the late Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) introduced the Peace Corps Equity Act to address the unfairness of the current policy.

With today’s action, we move one step closer to ensuring that female volunteers get the care they need when they find themselves in dire circumstances. Let’s hope this step isn’t the last.

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