• A hiker looks out over terraces, plazas and buildings at the Inca city of Choquequira. (Corbis)


    The Peace Corps' Abortion Outrage

    Even volunteers who are raped cannot procure abortions, but a new bill could change that.

    In 1994, I packed my bags and headed off to begin my two-year-and-three-months’ commitment as a Peace Corps volunteer in Lesotho, a tiny country completely surrounded by South Africa. It was a life-changing experience that forever shaped my views on the world and launched my career in global health and development.

    During training, we received extensive information on how best to protect our health and safety. We were assured that in the case of an emergency, our government had our backs. I was told I’d be evacuated in the face of political violence. My health insurance would cover my hospital bills should I be hit by a bus or fall in a ditch or otherwise suffer any accidents on the job.


    Assault Abroad

    Peace Corps Abortion Policy Under Fire

    Raped volunteers must pay for procedure themselves.

    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.”