House Committee Approves Abortion Coverage for Peace Corps Volunteers

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(Photo: Reuters/Chor Sokunthea)Peace Corps Cambodia volunteer English teachers swear in at the National Institute of Education in Phnom Penh.

The House Appropriations Committee voted this week to extend abortion coverage to Peace Corps volunteers who are raped while working with the program.

The provision, proposed by Democratic Rep. Nita Lowey of New York, quickly passed a voice vote in the GOP-controlled committee on Tuesday, and now goes on for a full vote in both the Senate and the House.

Proponents of the provision argue that because Peace Corps volunteers receive federal health insurance coverage, they should receive the same reproductive coverage as other employees of the U.S. federal government. Although most federal health insurance plans ban abortion, they allow the procedure in exceptions that include rape, incest, or if the mother's life is in danger.

The provision approved by the committee on Tuesday provides abortion coverage to Peace Corps volunteers for these three exceptions.

"With today's vote, no longer will women in the Peace Corps be denied coverage for abortion care after they've been raped or when they face life-threatening pregnancy complications. And no longer will they have to face the indignity of being forced to pay for essential medical care with their own limited resources," Nancy Northop, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement. "We applaud Congress for finally doing the right thing and standing behind the women who have stood up for our country."

Opponents of the provision argue that the pro-life movement does not discern how a child is conceived; rather, it values the sanctity of human life in all situations. "[...] because we believe the unborn is a valuable human being, abortion isn't automatically justified based on the way the child was conceived. If the unborn is a valuable human being, then it isn't justified to kill a child conceived in rape just like it wouldn't be justified to kill a born child conceived in rape," wrote Josh Brahm for LifeSite News.

Tuesday's vote comes shortly after a study released by the Center for Reproductive Rights found that out of 362 former female Peace Corps volunteers, 8.8 percent said they had been raped or sexually assaulted during their volunteer time. Five percent of those questioned reported a personal abortion experience while serving with the Peace Corps.