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Bill Aims To Extend Some Abortion Coverage to Peace Corps Volunteers

Bill Aims To Extend Some Abortion Coverage to Peace Corps Volunteers

May 7, 2014 — Legislation introduced in the House and Senate would provide Peace Corps volunteers with the same access to abortion coverage as federal employees and Medicaid beneficiaries, MSNBC reports (Carmon, MSNBC, 5/6).

Peace Corps volunteers receive no abortion coverage and must pay for the procedure out of pocket, whereas the federal government's employee health plans and Medicaid cover abortions in cases of rape, incest or danger to a woman's life (Winfield Cunningham, Politico Pro, 5/6).

The late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J) previously introduced the Peace Corps Equity Act last year (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 5/6). Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) is sponsoring the new bill in the Senate, and Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) is sponsoring the House version.

"Peace Corps volunteers face inherent risks living and working abroad," Shaheen said in a statement, adding, "There's no reason they should be denied standard health care services offered to most women with federal health care coverage" (MSNBC, 5/6).

Peace Corps Volunteers Want Abortion Coverage, Survey Finds

Former Peace Corps volunteers are lobbying lawmakers to pass the legislation. Advocates also are highlighting a new report that found that women in the Peace Corps support abortion coverage (Politico Pro, 5/6).

The report, from researchers at the University of Ottawa and Princeton University, is based on interviews with more than 430 Peace Corps volunteers (MSNBC, 5/6).

Of the 362 female Peace Corps volunteers surveyed for the report, 5% said they had a "personal abortion experience." About 8.8% of respondents said they had at least one experience with rape or sexual assault. According to Politico Pro, about 63% of Peace Corps volunteers are women, roughly 90% are not married and their average age is 28.

In the survey, the majority of women who reported having an abortion said that they learned of the lack of abortion coverage only after they became pregnant and that it was difficult to pay out of pocket for the procedure with their small Peace Corps stipends.

Nearly all female respondents said Peace Corps volunteers should have some abortion coverage available to them. About 98% said that they support the Peace Corps Equity Act (Politico Pro, 5/6).