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WASHINGTON – The Senate Appropriations Committee voted today to extend abortion coverage to Peace Corps volunteers by lifting a longstanding coverage ban. The State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill includes a provision to bring the same coverage for abortion care to Peace Corps volunteers and trainees as available in other areas of federal law.
"Peace Corps volunteers devote years of their lives to tackling the most pressing needs of people around the world, and it’s long past time we stop asking them to sacrifice basic health care coverage," said Vania Leveille, American Civil Liberties Union senior legislative counsel. "The Senate took a big step today toward supporting those who selflessly give their time and energy to work with communities in developing countries, and the House should follow its lead."
Since 1979, Congress has prohibited the Peace Corps from providing coverage for abortion services in their health care program with no exception. Even the allowances for abortion coverage in cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment that are found in other federal abortion restrictions are withheld from women serving in the Peace Corps. The Peace Corps equity provision in the State and Foreign Operations bill would end this practice and ensure that volunteers have the coverage they need.
The appropriations bill also includes a provision that would permanently rescind the “Global Gag Rule,” a federal policy that denies U.S. international family planning assistance to foreign organizations that use their non-U.S. funds to provide information, referrals, or access to legal abortion, or advocate for changes in their country’s abortion laws. President Obama rescinded the rule in 2009, but unless the provision included today becomes law, a future president could reinstate it at any time.