Democrats in the House and Senate have proposed legislation that would provide abortion coverage for women serving as Peace Corps volunteers.
Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) sponsored the Peace Corps Equity Act, a bill that looks to eliminate a prohibition on providing abortion services to volunteers that has been in place since 1979.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) is proposing to give Peace Corps volunteers coverage for abortion services. (Getty Images/Alex Wong)
"This is about fairness – fairness for American ambassadors working in every corner of the world to save and change lives," Lowey said upon introducing the House bill. "It is absolutely unconscionable that female Peace Corps volunteers who are victims of sexual assault, or whose pregnancies endanger their lives, are not afforded the same health care access as virtually all other women with federal health coverage."
Under current law, female Peace Corps volunteers are denied abortion coverage in the case of rape, incest or when the life of the woman is in danger. Peace Corps employees do get this coverage.
The resolution finds that women working overseas "deserve a basic standard of care when it comes to their health."
It says more than 60 percent of the more than 8,000 current Peace Corps volunteers are women, and that they face risks to their health and safety while working overseas. From 2000 to 2009, more than 1,000 volunteers were sexually assaulted, and there were 221 rapes or attempted rapes.
"Peace Corps volunteers face inherent risks living and working abroad and there’s no reason they should be denied standard health care services offered to most women with federal health care coverage," Shaheen said.
The bill concludes by inserting new language into the law that says coverage of abortion services by the Peace Corps for volunteers "shall be subject to the same limitations as the limitations that apply to employees of the Peace Corps."
"There is no rational basis for denying Peace Corps volunteers a basic health benefit that is extended to other women covered under federal health care plans," it states.