The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Affairs, and Related Programs has passed a bill that would amend the current total ban on abortion care for Peace Corps volunteers by allowing the Corps to provide access to safe abortion services in cases of sexual assault, incest or life endangerment.
This Fiscal Year 2012 provision was included in the State and Foreign Operations funding measure approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee yesterday evening. Current Peace Corps policy denies all coverage for abortion care services, even in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the woman is endangered. A wide range of advocacy and public health groups have condemned and fought to remove this ban.
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced the language amending the ban.
Women’s health organizations applauded the vote. “As a former Peace Corps volunteer, I am heartened by this small step forward in rectifying the Peace Corps’ discriminatory policies against female volunteers,” said Latanya Mapp Frett, vice president – Global, Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
“The women of the Peace Corps put themselves at increased risk of sexual assault in service to their country. It is high time the U.S. recognizes the reproductive rights of its volunteers by providing them with comprehensive medical care in such critical moments.”
The bill also includes a modest increase in U.S. spending for family planning — from $615 to $700 million. The additional funding would help make up for the disproportionate cuts the program faced this fiscal year.
This is one of several bills, including one on which we reported earlier this week that includes language banning the Global Gag Rule, that will become part of an omnibus spending bill in which all or parts may or may not pass in the final round.