WASHINGTON—Planned Parenthood Federation of America today praised the House Appropriations Committee for expanding access to women’s health care and approving an amendment with bipartisan support that will extend abortion coverage to Peace Corps volunteers.
Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY-17) introduced the amendment, which fixes the current ban on abortion coverage for Peace Corps volunteers by extending to them the same coverage for abortion services in the case of rape, incest, or a life-endangering pregnancy that other women with federal health care already receive. Women make up more than 60% of Peace Corps volunteers.
“Women in the Peace Corps deserve the same health care coverage that other women serving their country receive,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “The passing of this amendment with bipartisan support reinforces the commonsense nature of this issue. I applaud Representative Lowey for her leadership and the House Appropriations Committee for stepping up to the plate to ensure justice for Peace Corps volunteers.”
"As a former Peace Corps volunteer, I am very proud of the House of Representatives for having our backs,” said Latanya Mapp Frett, vice president--global, Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “I urge lawmakers in the House and Senate to maintain this crucial provision as they vote on these bills.”
The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a funding bill containing this same provision last week. These two funding bills now must pass the full House and Senate in order to be enacted.
"It is absolutely unconscionable that female Peace Corps volunteers who are victims of sexual assault, or whose pregnancies endanger their lives, are not afforded the same health care access as virtually all other women with federal health coverage," Lowey said. "They deserve our steadfast support, and I am working hard to ensure our volunteers get the health care coverage they need to continue serving our country.”
Background on Peace Corps Health Care Coverage:
• Since 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 FY14 and FY15 budget proposal.
• Women comprise 63 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.
• The Peace Corps is currently one of the only areas of the federal government where women are denied 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.
• Last year, the late Senator Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced 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. Senator Shaheen (D-NH) has led this effort in the Senate since his passing and reintroduced the bill earlier this year (S. 2291). Rep. Lowey sponsors the Peace Corps Equity Act in the House (HR 4578).
Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education. With more than 700 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect and without judgment. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable health information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives.
Planned Parenthood Federation of America media office: 212-261-4433
June 25, 2014