Equity for Women in the Peace Corps

Earlier this year, the late Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced the Peace Corps Equity Act, a bill that would extend the same coverage for abortion services to Peace Corps Volunteers that most other women with federal health care already receive. Current Peace Corps policy denies coverage of abortion for volunteers even when a woman has been raped or faces a life-threatening pregnancy.

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

What you need to know about the Peace Corp’s Abortion Policy

It would just take a small technical fix to the Peace Corps’s current policy to clarify that Peace Corps volunteers and trainees should be able to access abortion in these cases, consistent with other areas of federal law.   That’s what the Peace Corps Equity Act would do. President Obama also proposed this fix in most recent budget proposal.

Expanding this coverage to Peace Corps Volunteers is crucial. More than half of all Peace Corps Volunteers are women.  According to internal Peace Corps statistics, hundreds of Peace Corps Volunteers were raped or sexually assaulted between 2000 and 2009.

Peace Corps is currently one of the only sectors of the U.S. 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.

A similar ban existed for women in the military until President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013, which included an amendment extending insurance coverage for abortion when a pregnancy results from rape or incest. 

For more information, read Latanya Mapp Frett’s personal essay in the Daily Beast on why women in the Peace Corps deserve the same health benefits extended to federal employees.