December 18, 2014 — President Obama this week signed into law a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending measure that includes a provision lifting a 35-year ban on abortion coverage for Peace Corps volunteers in instances of rape, incest or danger to a woman's life, the Washington Post's "Federal Eye" reports (Hicks, "Federal Eye," Washington Post, 12/18).
Health insurance coverage for Peace Corps volunteers has been prohibited from covering abortion in any circumstance since 1979. The new policy brings the Peace Corps' standard in line with other federal policies that bar the use of federal funding for abortion in cases other than rape, incest or when a woman's life is in danger. Currently, the volunteers are one of the only groups with federal health coverage that does not receive abortion coverage in those cases.
Earlier this year, the House and Senate Appropriations committees both approved measures calling to end the Peace Corps policy for the first time. Lawmakers lifted a similar ban last year that had been in place for members of the military and their dependents (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/12).
Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet on Wednesday said, "The health, safety and security of volunteers are our absolute highest priorities, and this important step forward furthers our work to enhance volunteer support as we build a better, stronger Peace Corps."
The late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) proposed similar legislation last year. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), who proposed this year's version with Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), said in a statement on Wednesday, "Peace Corps service members deserve the same basic health care benefits provided to other women on federal health care plans" ("Federal Eye," Washington Post, 12/18).