Ipas applauds abortion coverage for Peace Corps volunteers

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Ipas leaders applauded today as President Obama signed into law a spending bill that loosens restrictions around abortion for women in the Peace Corps. Under the new bill, the Peace Corps will cover abortion care for women who have been raped or whose lives are threatened by their pregnancy. Since 1979, abortion coverage for Peace Corps volunteers has been banned by law.

“This is an important measure that will ensure that women in the Peace Corps have the same rights as other women covered by U.S.-funded health insurance programs,” said Katie Early, Ipas director of development who served in the Peace Corps in Tunisia.

“Women in the Peace Corps travel far from their homes to tackle some of the world’s most pressing problems on behalf of our nation,” said Early. “We simply can’t turn our back on them at times when they need compassionate care the most.”

The new rule brings the Peace Corps into line with other federal programs that provide health coverage. Abortion in cases of rape, incest or when a woman’s life is in danger is covered for federal workers, women in the military and women receiving Medicaid. However, restrictions remain in place, without exception, for women in developing countries who seek health care in U.S.-funded health facilities under a 1973 law called the Helms Amendment.

“All U.S.-funded programs should be held to the same standard, including our global health programs,” said Early. “These are common sense exceptions that have broad support.”

The Helms amendment applies to U.S. foreign assistance and effectively bars programs receiving U.S. foreign aid from providing safe abortion care even in countries where such services are legal, and where unsafe abortion is a leading cause of maternal death.