Global Win: Equitable abortion coverage for Peace Corps Volunteers

For the first time in over three decades, Congress has extended equitable abortion coverage to female Peace Corps Volunteers.

What you need to know about the Abortion Policy Governing Peace Corps Volunteers

peace-corps-more-than-60-percent-175x180-2x.pngFor years, the Peace Corps Volunteers were one of the only groups of women who receive health care through the U.S. government who Congress denied coverage of abortion in all cases, even when a woman had been raped or faced a life-threatening pregnancy.

Women make up more than 60 percent of the 8,000-plus Peace Corps Volunteers who devote their time and energy in service to people around the world. But despite their service to others, Peace Corps Volunteers had been denied the health care coverage they deserve.

Read Latanya Mapp Frett’s personal essay in the Daily Beast on her time in the Peace Corps, and what this issue means to her.

A Global Win

That all changed at the end of 2014 when, after months of negotiations, the U.S. Congress finally passed a funding bill with bipartisan support that amended this policy to ensure that Peace Corps Volunteers have equitable coverage for abortion in cases of rape, incest, and to protect the life of the woman, consistent with the coverage that federal employees and women serving in the military receive.

Read Planned Parenthood’s press release here.

Congresswoman Nita Lowey, Senator Jeanne Shaheen, and their bipartisan allies have been unwavering in their commitment to ensuring health care equity for women that serve in the Peace Corps and Planned Parenthood is grateful to them for this support.

In the lead up to this hard fought for progress, Planned Parenthood worked with women’s health and Returned Peace Corps Volunteer supporters in Congress and across the country to support the Peace Corps Equity Act, a bill that would correct this inequity and ensure fair treatment for Peace Corps Volunteers. Support for the Peace Corps Equity Act was critical to build momentum towards the inclusion of this fix in the funding bill.

This was an important step in the right direction, but there is still clear work to be done to reject any attempt to take away this right and to expand comprehensive access to reproductive health services by removing abortion restrictions altogether. No woman — no matter where she lives or works — should face barriers to care.

Women in the Peace Corps -- like all women around the world -- should be able to make private medical decisions and access high-quality medical care without the interference of politicians. With that in mind, Planned Parenthood will continue to protect and build on this women’s health win.

Watch this short interview with Planned Parenthood’s Vice President-Global on her time as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Lesotho.