Open Letter from a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer: Congressional Ban on Abortion Care Coverage Unacceptable

Carin Brown Peace Corps

In the early 1970s, I spent two unforgettable years in Punjab, India. It left me with lasting friendships and played a major role in how I see the world, myself, and what I have done with my life since. The Peace Corps instilled in me a desire to see women everywhere empowered to take charge of their lives.

My experiences—as a licensed OB/GYN, and later as the Assistant Medical Director of Planned Parenthood in Maryland—only confirmed that sexual and reproductive health care changes women’s lives. Though I recently retired, my work is not over. In January, I was given the opportunity to accompany Pathfinder International and Population Action International to Peru to see their programs and advocacy work firsthand.

At the Maternal-Perinatal Health Institute in Lima, where we saw post-abortion care services, I learned something shocking—not about the Peruvian health care system but our own. After hearing about my start in the Peace Corps, a Pathfinder staff person told me about the ban: Since 1979, Congress has prohibited the Peace Corps from covering abortion services for its volunteers and trainees, including in cases of rape, incest, or when the life of the mother is at risk. I had no idea this restriction existed.

Like many volunteers, I lived without running water, food refrigeration, or electronic communication and had to walk long distances to the nearest form of transportation. We learned to do without and usually benefitted from the experience, but we shouldn’t be asked to live without equal coverage for basic health care from our own government.

There are more than 8,000 current Peace Corps volunteers—60 percent of them women—who risk their safety every day. My heart goes out to the more than 1,000 volunteers who have reported experiencing sexual assault, including more than 212 rapes or attempted rape, in the last decade alone.   I have no doubt that countless more sexual assaults have gone unreported. Yet, when it comes to abortion, these women, unlike most other women who receive health care coverage from the federal government, are denied basic fairness in access to health care and in making their own personal medical decisions.

This is not the message of the Peace Corps that I served all those years ago. This is not what empowerment looks like. I have taken care of many rape survivors in my career as a physician and to feel cared for and supported after such a traumatic event is such an important part of the healing.

No woman serving our country should face the tragedy of sexual assault. But if she does, she should be able to access the health care and support services she needs. This is what I believe. It’s what Pathfinder believes. Will you stand with us? 

Our country has a responsibility for the citizens it sends abroad to do its work. Why should Peace Corps volunteers be treated any differently?

This past December, President Obama and Congress lifted a similar ban, giving female military service members insurance coverage for abortions in cases of rape and incest. And earlier this year, the late Senator Frank Lautenberg introduced a bill—the Peace Corps Equity Act (S. 813)—that would extend access to abortion for women in the Peace Corps under these same circumstances. This is the same comprehensive coverage other federal employees already receive.

Senator Jeanne Shaheen is now carrying forward this important effort and a provision to fix this inequity was included in the Senate Appropriations Committee approved FY 2014 State Department and Foreign Operations funding bill.

Let us continue this progress. I hope you will join me in in encouraging our Senate to keep language in the bill—to ensure a female Peace Corps volunteer or trainee is able to access an abortion if she is raped, a survivor of incest, or when her life is in danger. 

Our country has a responsibility for the citizens it sends abroad to do its work. Why should Peace Corps volunteers be treated any differently?

Carin Brown is a longtime supporter of Pathfinder International and a returned Peace Corps volunteer who traveled to visit Pathfinder's work in Peru last year.

Focus Area: Abortion , Advocacy

Leave a Comment

* Change


I would like to thank you for your nicely written post, its informative and your writing style encouraged me to read it till end. Thanks ! JENNIFER
Ahsan October 31, 2014
perspective growing product money parties check credit score information markets companies
Name October 31, 2014
Thanks for taking the time to discuss on this, I feel strongly that love and read more on this topic. If possible, such as gain knowledge, would you mind updating your blog with additional information? It is very useful for me. Powershell Training
Girish October 31, 2014
ladies kickboxing A very awesome blog post. We are really grateful for your blog post. Home Improvement You will find a lot of approaches after visiting your post. I was exactly searching for. Thanks for such post and please keep it up. Great work. remodeling
JOHN October 31, 2014
Some people are very fond of reading books will be able to distinguish the best book as a guide and a book that is not good. It all depends with your reading experience. neeed coupon bing
Ahsan October 30, 2014
First you got a great blog .I will be interested in more similar topics. i see you got really very useful topics , i will be always checking your blog thanks. Josh Wean
Ahsan October 30, 2014
In the cutting edge worldwide economy with wild rivalry from nations, for example, China, India, other Asian, East European and South American nations, western businesses no more have the advantage of expanded €on the employment preparing', nor the advantage of being constrained into circumstances where administration positions need to be filled by sub standard taught or prepared individuals. You learn to visit essay writing site.
Hiton October 29, 2014
Hi, I find reading this article a joy. It is extremely helpful and interesting and very much looking forward to reading more of your work. declutter your home
Sofi October 29, 2014
Faizan October 29, 2014
With the item to be distributed, then the consumer will hunt for merchants selling things completely. They need the best supplier. Best Reviews for Best Seattle Commercial Electrician jullie
brightfuture October 28, 2014
You could write about the automation on the blog. You may jot down it's magnetic. Your blog angle could heighten your students. Vape Shops
Vape Shops October 28, 2014
Want numerous voluntarys, I lived lacking running hose, edible refrigeration, or electronic directive besides had to tramp desire spaces to the nearest figuration of transit. essay writer
monu October 28, 2014
Such a very useful article. Very interesting to read this article.I would like to thank you for the efforts you had made for writing this awesome article. beall
Ahsan October 28, 2014
Thanks for posting this informative article. Now it become easy for me to understand and implement the concept. iherb coupon
iherb coupon October 27, 2014
Karate Awesome blog. I enjoyed reading your articles. This is truly a great read for me. I have bookmarked it and I am looking forward to reading new articles. Keep up the good work! $5 domains
JOHN October 27, 2014
With the item to be distributed, then the consumer will hunt for merchants selling things completely. They need the best supplier. Best Reviews for Best Seattle Commercial Electrician
MauriceBurnett October 27, 2014
I think this is one of the most significant information for me. And i’m glad reading your article. Good job, cheers..! Barnedåb
Sofi October 26, 2014
I am extremely impressed with your writing skills as well as with the layout on your weblog. Refinanciamento casas
Ahsan October 26, 2014
Stem Cell Therapy In Malaysia I researed valuable information on this point as I am working on a class project. Thank you posting useful information and its now becoming easier to accomplish this task. What Is My Timeshare Worth
JOHN October 26, 2014
I read few posts on this web site and I conceive that your blog is very interesting and has sets of fantastic information. Craftaloon Plan
franklin7 October 25, 2014
Scroll to top