President Obama Signs Historic Funding Bill Granting Peace Corps Volunteers Long-Denied Abortion Coverage

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For the first time, women serving in the Peace Corps will have health care coverage for abortions in cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment
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(PRESS RELEASE) Last night President Barack Obama signed the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act for FY 2015 into law, which includes an historic budgetary fix that will finally allow women serving in the Peace Corps equal health care coverage for abortion services in cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment.

Until this point, Peace Corps Volunteers have been barred from abortion coverage in any circumstance – even in the case of rape or a life-threatening pregnancy. With the signing of this new funding bill, Peace Corps Volunteers will have the same limited coverage available to federal employees, women receiving health care assistance through Medicaid, and most recently, military servicewomen. President Barack Obama included long-denied coverage in his annual budget proposal for FY2015, and this summer appropriations committees in both the Senate and House voted to include the critical fix in their respective funding bills.

Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“For the first time in more than 30 years, the dedicated women of the Peace Corps will have the same coverage for reproductive health care as all who serve the U.S.”

“Women who have decided to end a pregnancy because of rape, incest, or life-threatening complications will no longer have to wonder how they are going to pay for the health care they need.

“We commend President Obama and the bipartisan supporters of this measure in Congress for their commitment and leadership, which has finally made equal reproductive health care coverage for women in the Peace Corps a reality.”

A recent study documented more than a dozen women’s personal experiences with abortion while serving in the Peace Corps—from the time before the discriminatory federal ban was put in place in the late 1970s through 2013. The study’s authors concluded that “lifting the federal restrictions on abortion coverage in cases of rape, whether through the appropriations process or a stand-alone bill, would be consistent with this overarching effort to respond better to the needs of sexual assault survivors serving in the Peace Corps.”

Peace Corps Volunteers—63 percent of whom are women–are only paid a monthly stipend of $250-$300, typically less than the cost of a first-trimester abortion. Several women interviewed in the study reported serious challenges paying out-of-pocket for the procedure. One participant explained, “I got a comfortable monthly stipend to be living in those local conditions, but there’s no way that the stipend would have been enough for me to obtain a safe abortion.” Over 97 percent of the study’s participants supported efforts to extend health care coverage in cases of life endangerment, rape, and incest.

“It is comforting beyond words that my voice, along with the voices of my fellow returned Peace Corps volunteers affected by this ban, have been heard and acknowledged, and our fight has been fruitful,” said Christine Carcano, a former Peace Corps volunteer who has shared her own story of struggling to pay for an abortion after she was raped during her service in Peru. “This change is about support and compassion for a woman in time of need, and it is an absolute relief that no future Peace Corps volunteer will have to feel the effects of this traumatizing policy. If there is any silver lining to such a situation, this is it.”