Assault Abroad

04.26.13

Bill Aims to Change Peace Corps Abortion Policy

By federal law, raped volunteers must pay for abortions themselves if they become pregnant after the assault.

If female Peace Corps volunteers are raped and become pregnant, federal law forces them to pay for their abortions themselves. Now, backed by women’s health groups and the Obama administration, Senator Frank Lautenberg has introduced a bill to change that. Advocates hope to build on their success earlier this year expanding abortion coverage for rape victims in the military. Rape of Peace Corps volunteers, the majority of whom are women, is an alarmingly widespread problem. As The Washington Post reports, “From 2000 to 2009, the last year for which statistics are available, more than 1,000 volunteers reported sexual assaults, including 221 rapes or attempted rapes. Experts say the incidence is likely higher.” Post reporter Lisa Rein quotes a woman named Mary Kate Shannon who was raped twice during her tour in Peru. “The agency’s international health coordinator told her the Peace Corps could not pay for an abortion if it turned out she was pregnant,” writes Rein. “It would, however, pay for parenting classes, Shannon said she was told.”