Applauds Measure to Ensure Equitable Abortion Access for Peace Corps Volunteers

WASHINGTON, DC — Planned Parenthood Action Fund released the following statement on funding measures approved last night by the House of Representatives and expected to clear the Senate in the coming days. The bill includes an important provision that will ensure for the first time that Peace Corps volunteers have access to abortion in cases of rape, incest, or to protect the life of the woman.

The last election made clear that Americans reject government interference into their personal health care decisions and Planned Parenthood Action Fund continues to oppose the continuation of several deeply unpopular policy riders that restrict access to abortion. Despite the efforts of anti-women’s health members of Congress, additional abortion restrictions did not make it into the final bill.

The bill also maintains current funding levels for key health programs such as the Title X Family Planning Program, the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program and the International Family Planning and Reproductive Health Program. Ignoring calls to increase funding levels for those fiscally responsible family planning programs, the appropriations bill instead increases funding streams for abstinence-only programs that have been proven ineffective.

Statement from Cecile Richards, President, Planned Parenthood Action Fund:

“We applaud Congress for extending equitable abortion coverage to female Peace Corps volunteers.  These volunteers put their safety on the line through their invaluable service and deserve the same protections we provide to other women throughout the federal government.  Congresswoman Nita Lowey, Senator Jeanne Shaheen, and their allies have been unwavering in their commitment to ensuring health care equity for women that serve in the Peace Corps and we are grateful to them for this victory.

“The Appropriations bill is an important step in the right direction when it comes to women’s health — holding the line on deeply unpopular abortion restrictions and expanding access for Peace Corps volunteers. We object to the continued funding of fiscally irresponsible abstinence-only programs that have been proven ineffective, while ignoring calls for increased funding for the programs that have been proven to work and help millions of women across the country get access to basic health care, including affordable birth control.

“Congress should seek to build on this important step advancing women’s health, like the provision for Peace Corps volunteers, in the next session. Americans — across party lines — support commonsense policies to increase access to the full-range of reproductive health care services and information — and they want to keep politicians out of a woman’s personal health care decisions. Candidates ran as moderates in the last election and the American public expects them to govern as moderates.  Planned Parenthood Action Fund and our millions of supporters across the country are ready to hold Congress accountable for these votes and any other attacks on women’s health when they come back to Washington in the New Year.”

Equitable abortion coverage for Peace Corps Volunteers:

  • The House-passed FY15 appropriations bill includes a commonsense and bipartisan provision that will provide equitable abortion coverage to Peace Corps volunteers in cases of rape, incest, and to save the life of the woman. This provision was included in House and Senate committee-passed bills earlier this year.
  • The Peace Corps is currently one of the only sectors of the U.S. government that denies women coverage for abortion in all cases. More than half of all Peace Corps volunteers are women, and according to internal Peace Corps statistics, hundreds of volunteers were raped or sexually assaulted between 2000 and 2009.
  • 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, but important, technical fix to this policy clarifies that Peace Corps volunteers and trainees should be able to access abortion in these cases, consistent with other areas of federal law.

Increased funding for abstinence-only programs:

  • Abstinence-only programs are fiscally irresponsible and have been proven to not delay sexual initiation or lower rates of pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections. In fact, the nonpartisan Institute of Medicine stated that these programs are “poor fiscal and public health policy” that should be eradicated.
  • Comprehensive sex education is supported by organizations like the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics — and by a majority of Americans, including the vast majority of both parents and teens.