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

kids karate wethersfield | http://www.vaporjuices.biz We are really grateful for your blog post. You will find a lot of approaches after visiting your post. Great work. Robina | injury attorney
JOHN October 24, 2014
Whether you desire it or not, you have a relationship with money that will always be there. Because of this, you have to understand your financial life. This article outlines advice for personal finances. learn more here Starting an online business on your own can be an intimidating task. You probably have questions like, where do I start? How do I start? Well I'm going to tell you exactly what you need to do in order to start your own online business.
pulicer October 24, 2014
Building an application for your Phone will definitely help you in the right manner. Proper planning is required if you are willing to generate some fine results on the go. Try and get loads of features on board if you want to promote your products and services. at bing It's a fad that is on the increase. Every day there are new products being launched in the Internet Marketing space and newbie internet marketers are falling foul of this new trend. The trend I am talking about is "SOS - Shiny Object Syndrome" it has the ability to seize one's fancy and interest in such a way that that we get side-tracked and go off in different directions instead of concentrating on the main objective.
Silver October 24, 2014
90% of advertisers plan to launch a cross screen advertising campaign this year. Even though conventional media continues to drive mass awareness, digital medium is now playing a key role in driving consideration, conversion and even brand advocacy. a knockout post Getting your website done? Don't ignore the basics. Websites have been known to be powerful marketing tools.
joseph October 24, 2014
antibacterial face wash Awesome blog. I enjoyed reading your articles. This is truly a great read for me. fitness kickboxing I have bookmarked it and I am looking forward to reading new articles. Keep up the good work! asian culture
johnsmith3755 October 23, 2014
who traveled to visit Pathfinder's work in Peru last year.
brightfuture October 23, 2014
job seekers | JATO Bottom Vertical Coil 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. cleaning service gift certificate | serta mattress
johnsmith3755 October 23, 2014
This content is written very well. Your use of formatting when making your points makes your observations very clear and easy to understand. Thank you. clogged drains
Ahsan October 23, 2014
I am always searching online for articles that can help me. There is obviously a lot to know about this. We are really grateful for your blog post. A very awesome blog post perfect abs
Usman October 22, 2014
thanks , for the health of the female organs information please visit ... crystal x jual crystal x asli nasa jogja
nasa October 22, 2014
Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts. Any way I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon. Guinness mini fridge
Ahsan October 22, 2014
I am really very happy to read your website. Thanks for Nice topic post. http://dapurresep.weebly.com/
Mas joni October 22, 2014
Thank you for the great article. the governments involvement with our healthcare is including but not limited to abortion has been a topic of much discussion over the last few years. It is very important to get this info out there. windshield decals
Robbie the Mole October 22, 2014
lismore 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. lismore krate
johnsmith3755 October 22, 2014
lismore kids martial arts | abs, leg Thanx for a very interesting web site. Where else could I get that kind of info written in such an ideal approach? I have a undertaking that I'm just now working on, and I've been at the look out for such information. Online School | martial arts lismore
johnsmith3755 October 21, 2014
cool clash of clans astuce
topparked October 21, 2014
I thought it was going to be some boring old post, but it really compensated for my time. I will post a link to this page on my blog. I am sure my visitors will locate that extremely useful... mma
Ahsan October 21, 2014
We are really grateful for your blog post. You will find a lot of approaches after visiting your post. Great work. Karate
Ahsan October 21, 2014
Scroll to top