Senate Takes Important Step to Expand Abortion Coverage

July 25, 2013 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON — The Senate Appropriations Committee voted today to expand abortion coverage by lifting two separate coverage bans for D.C. residents and Peace Corps volunteers. 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. The committee also effectively voted to end the D.C. abortion ban — which prevents Washington, D.C., from using its own locally raised funds to pay for abortion care for low-income women — by excluding the ban from any of appropriations bills.

“As many of the states continue their march to outlaw abortion, it’s encouraging to see the Senate vote to restore equity and fairness to two groups of women who have been unfairly targeted in the past,” said Vania Leveille, American Civil Liberties Union senior legislative council. “With these votes, we are one step closer to the day when all women have access to the reproductive health care coverage they need, whatever their situation.”

Under current policy, the Peace Corps is prohibited from providing abortion coverage for volunteers with no exceptions — unlike other federal abortion coverage restrictions, which have exceptions for when a woman’s life is endangered, or she is the survivor of rape or incest. The Peace Corps equity provision in the State and Foreign Operations bill would end the practice of singling out Peace Corps volunteers by ensuring abortion coverage in cases of life endangerment, rape, and incest. Earlier this year, the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) introduced the Peace Corps Equity Act, which puts forward the same equity provisions.

The D.C. abortion ban was reinstated in 2011 after being reversed in 2009. The ACLU has long sought an end to the ban, arguing that Congress should respect the District of Columbia’s autonomy and allow it to use, like other states, its own local, non-federal revenue to provide abortion care to women enrolled in Medicaid.

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