A Call for Peace Corps Policy Change

Just yesterday the Planned Parenthood Federation of America sent out a release regarding a very important Peace Corps policy issue they are actively advocating to change. As a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) myself, this caught my attention.

The release reads as follows:

RE: Peace Corps Volunteers’ Access to Women’s Health Care

We would like to update you about a policy issue Planned Parenthood Federation of America is actively advocating to advance as part of our effort to expand access to safe and legal abortion.  Since 1979, Congress has prohibited the Peace Corps from providing coverage for abortion to their volunteers with no exceptionsThis policy denies women in the Peace Corps coverage for abortion even in cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment, despite the fact that these women often serve in countries where quality medical care is hard to come by, and the Peace Corps has acknowledged that it is in the midst of grappling with a serious sexual assault problem [emphasis mine] This policy singles out Peace Corps volunteers, denying them coverage available to most other women who receive health care from the federal government, including women in the military.

Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) is preparing to introduce the Peace Corps Equity Act later this week, a bill that will amend this policy and bring equitable medical care to Peace Corps volunteers and trainees consistent with other areas of federal law.  This bill builds upon the successful effort led by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), to expand access to abortion for military servicewomen at the end of last year.  Senator Shaheen is an original co-sponsor of the Peace Corps Equity Act.

Across the federation there are many Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) and each of you can be enormously helpful in our effort to ensure that this policy succeeds.  We would like to hear your stories and identify which of you would be willing to participate in advocacy on this issue.  Your stories can help put a human face on this issue, whether or not you directly witnessed or experienced sexual violence.  Please contact Jenny Vanyur (jennifer.vanyur@ppfa.org) to let us know how many RPCVs work in your affiliate and, if you are an RPCV, if you would be willing to participate in advocacy efforts.

The release continues to educate readers about the fact that women makeup “62 percent of all Peace Corps volunteers“; “According to internal Peace Corps statistics, there were hundreds of rapes, and major sexual assaults perpetrated against Peace Corps volunteers between 2000 and 2009.”

In conclusion, Planned Parenthood attests,

“The Peace Corps is now one of the only government sectors that deny civil servants coverage for abortion in the cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment.  There is no rational basis for denying Peace Corps volunteers and trainees access to safe and legal abortion in these circumstances, a benefit that is extended to other women covered under federal health care plans.  Senator Lautenberg’s bill provides a small technical fix to this policy and would clarify that Peace Corps volunteers and trainees should be able to access abortion in these cases, repealing this inequitable restriction on women’s health.”

I have already contacted Jenny Vanyur (jennifer.vanyur@ppfa.org) and urge other RPCVs to do so as well in order to lend as many RPCV voices to this movement.

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Filed under Abortion, Social Justice

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