On Thursday, Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced a bill that would extend insurance coverage for abortion in cases of rape or incest to Peace Corps volunteers. Currently only paid Peace Corps staff have this coverage, forcing Peace Corps volunteers who are assaulted to pay for abortion procedures out of pocket. The bill, titled the “Peace Corps Equity Act” is co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Patty Murray (D-WA), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). Currently there is no sponsor in the House.
In a press release, Lautenberg said “We must not stand idly by while Peace Corps volunteers continue to be subjected to this gross inequity in their health care coverage. Peace Corps volunteers choose to provide a valuable public service despite inherent risks to their safety, including sexual assault, and it is unacceptable that their own country restricts their access to care. My legislation would ensure that Peace Corps volunteers don’t have to forfeit their rights or jeopardize their health when they volunteer to help underserved populations throughout the world.”
A spokesperson for the Peace Corps, Shira Kramer, said in a statement that the corps supports the bill to create changes that “provides female volunteers with the same rights and protections as many of their female colleagues.”