House Committee votes to bring abortion coverage for Peace Corps volunteers in line with other federal employees, military

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Women make up 60 percent of Peace Corps volunteers, but are denied the same abortion coverage as other federal employees.

The U.S. House Appropriations Committee today approved a measure that would enable Peace Corps volunteers to have what other federal employees and members of the military have: health coverage that covers abortion in cases of rape, incest or threat to life. It was a rare vote to extend abortion coverage in a chamber led by a party opposed to abortion rights.

Since 1979, the Peace Corps has been legally banned from including abortion for any reason in their health coverage for volunteers. This policy has been out of step with regulations governing health coverage for other recipients of government funded health programs, such as federal employees (including Peace Corps staff), Medicaid recipients and members of the military. 

“Peace Corps volunteers contribute two years of their lives to make the world a better place on behalf of our nation,” said Katie Early, Ipas Director of Development and a Peace Corps volunteer in Tunisia, from 1982-1984. Early gave birth to her first child during her service. “It is terrific that they might finally be able to exercise the right to safe, legal abortion that all other American women have.”

The House Committee vote follows a similar one in the Senate Appropriations Committee several days earlier.  In order for Peace Corps volunteers to actually realize equitable coverage of abortion, both full chambers of Congress need to pass matching appropriations legislation.