Bill to Expand Abortion Access in Peace Corps Introduced
On Thursday, Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced a bill that would extend insurance coverage for abortion in cases of rape or incest to Peace Corps volunteers. Currently only paid Peace Corps staff have this coverage, forcing Peace Corps volunteers who are assaulted to pay for abortion procedures out of pocket. The bill, titled the "Peace Corps Equity Act" is co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Patty Murray (D-WA), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). Currently there is no sponsor in the House.
In a press release, Lautenberg said "We must not stand idly by while Peace Corps volunteers continue to be subjected to this gross inequity in their health care coverage. Peace Corps volunteers choose to provide a valuable public service despite inherent risks to their safety, including sexual assault, and it is unacceptable that their own country restricts their access to care. My legislation would ensure that Peace Corps volunteers don't have to forfeit their rights or jeopardize their health when they volunteer to help underserved populations throughout the world."
A spokesperson for the Peace Corps, Shira Kramer, said in a statement that the corps supports the bill to create changes that "provides female volunteers with the same rights and protections as many of their female colleagues."
Media Resources: ThinkProgress 4/26/2013; Lautenberg Press Office 4/25/2013; Washington Post 4/25/2013
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8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .