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

Comments

I simply want to tell you that I am new to weblog and definitely liked this blog site. Very likely I’m going to bookmark your blog . You absolutely have wonderful stories. Cheers for sharing with us your blog.Kona Photographer
ali April 17, 2014
I comprehend the greatest satisfys on your blog plus I thoroughly like lesson them. where to buy real youtube views
Name April 17, 2014
Thanks for providing such useful information. I really appreciate your professional approach. doctor oz garcinia cambogia for weight loss tv episode
doctor oz garcinia cambogia for weight loss tv episode April 17, 2014
This was indeed what I was looking for, furthermore I am delighted to came here! Blesss for sharing the such info along us.Hair Growth for men
Hair Growth for men April 16, 2014
Corps under these same circumstances. This is the same comprehensive coverage other federal employees already receive.free audio software
free audio software April 16, 2014
We shouldn’t be asked to live without equal coverage for basic health care from our own government. free audio software
free audio software April 16, 2014
Your blog provided us with valuable information to work with. Each & every tips of your post are awesome. Thanks a lot for sharing. exposed skin care coupon
sada April 16, 2014
I learned something shocking—not about the Peruvian health care system but our own trucking accident injury lawyer
jimmy April 15, 2014
Hey your collection is outstanding; I never see such a type of collection before. Thanks for sharing it with us. Keep it up. cash payday loans
cash payday loans April 14, 2014
I learned something shocking—not about the Peruvian health care system but our own.acura lease deals ny
acura lease deals ny April 14, 2014
I learned something shocking—not about the Peruvian health care system but our own.Pet insurance
Pet insurance April 14, 2014
Also great blog here with all of the valuable information you have. Keep up the good work you are doing here. dr oz supplements fat loss extract
dr oz supplements fat loss extract April 14, 2014
I learned something shocking—not about the Peruvian health care system but our own. sbobet indoagen
sbobet indoagen April 13, 2014
This is a nice post in an interesting line of content.Thanks for sharing this article, great way of bring this topic to discussion best shampoo for hair loss
best shampoo for hair loss April 12, 2014
My business is actually pleased by perusing Yacon Powder this post. Intriguing article as well as I adore your current accept the issue.
Yacon Powder April 11, 2014
Great post full of useful tips! My site is fairly new and I am also having a hard time getting my readers to leave comments. Analytics shows they are coming to the site but I have a feeling “nobody wants to be first”. check this site out
calvinbrock735 April 11, 2014
Very informative post! There is a lot of information here that can help any business get started with a successful social networking campaign! kontorimööbel
calvinbrock735 April 11, 2014
The transparency in your post is just nice and I can assume you specialize in this subject. nyc medicaid fraud
nyc medicaid fraud April 10, 2014
I came onto your blog while focusing just slightly submits. Nice strategy for next, I will be bookmarking at once seize your complete rises http://bestmattress-forbackpain.yolasite.com/
stuart April 10, 2014
That's what I really wanted to see for a long time. bedroom wall sticker
bedroom wall sticker April 9, 2014
Scroll to top