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Planned Parenthood Applauds the Introduction of the Peace Corps Equity Act
Planned Parenthood applauds Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) for introducing the Peace Corps Equity Act, which would extend to Peace Corps Volunteers the same coverage for abortion services that most other women with federal health care already receive. Current policy denies coverage of abortion for Peace Corps Volunteers even when a woman has been raped or faces a life-threatening pregnancy.
“The Peace Corps Equity Act is a matter of basic fairness. It will ensure that a woman serving in the Peace Corps has the same access to abortion if she is the victim of rape or incest, or when her life is endangered, as women in the armed services and many other women covered by federal health programs,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “Women in the Peace Corps should be able to make private medical decisions without the interference of politicians. We are grateful for Senator Lautenberg’s unwavering commitment to addressing this injustice faced by Peace Corps volunteers, and look forward to working with him and his colleagues to pass this legislation.”
“No woman should have to sacrifice access to health care in order to serve her country,” said Latanya Mapp Frett, Vice President—Global, Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “As a former Peace Corps Volunteer, I commend Senator Lautenberg for working to ensure that women in the Peace Corps receive the health care coverage they need and deserve.”
Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Patty Murray (D-WA), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) co-sponsored the Peace Corps Equity Act. The bill builds on the successful effort Senator Shaheen led to expand access to abortion for military servicewomen at the end of last year.
Click here to view a short interview with Frett on access to women’s health care in the Peace Corps: http://youtu.be/BYgoesrYgtw
• Since fiscal year 1979, annual appropriations acts have prohibited the Peace Corps from covering abortion services for its volunteers and trainees, even in cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment. A small technical fix to this policy would clarify that Peace Corps volunteers and trainees should be able to access abortion in these cases, consistent with other areas of federal law. President Obama also proposed this fix in his FY 14 budget proposal.
• A similar ban existed for women in the military until President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013, which included an amendment granting parity to military women by extending insurance coverage for abortion when a pregnancy results from rape or incest.
• Women comprise 62 percent of all Peace Corps volunteers, yet have been left behind in access to health care. According to internal Peace Corps statistics, there were hundreds of rapes, attempted rapes, and major sexual assaults perpetrated against Peace Corps volunteers between 2000 and 2009.
• Peace Corps is currently one of the only sectors of the government that denies women coverage for abortion in all cases, including rape, incest and life endangerment. There is no rational basis for denying Peace Corps volunteers and trainees access to safe and legal abortion under these circumstances, a benefit that is extended to federal employees – including the Peace Corps employees who work with these volunteers.