Abortion Funding for Peace Corps’ Volunteers Advances With Republican Support

Bills eliminating the restriction passed in both House and Senate appropriations committees for the first time.

National Journal
Sophie Novack
June 24, 2014, 8:50 a.m.

Con­gress has re­peatedly blocked fed­er­al fund­ing for abor­tions for Peace Corps mem­bers, even in the event of rape, in­cest, or life en­dan­ger­ment. Un­til now.

For the first time, the Sen­ate and House Ap­pro­pri­ations Com­mit­tees have both ap­proved bills that lift the ban on abor­tion fund­ing for vo­lun­teers in the above cir­cum­stances. The move­ment gives reas­on to be­lieve Con­gress may ac­tu­ally ap­prove the fund­ing this year.

The House com­mit­tee passed an amend­ment al­low­ing for the cov­er­age as part of the Fisc­al 2015 state and for­eign op­er­a­tions ap­pro­pri­ations bill in a voice vote Tues­day af­ter­noon. Sen­ate Ap­pro­pri­ations passed sim­il­ar lan­guage in the same bill last week.

Since 1979, in­sur­ance through the Peace Corps has been pro­hib­ited from cov­er­ing abor­tions un­der any cir­cum­stances, even though emer­gency cov­er­age was avail­able for oth­er re­cip­i­ents of gov­ern­ment-sponsored in­sur­ance — in­clud­ing fed­er­al em­ploy­ees and Medi­caid re­cip­i­ents. Con­gress elim­in­ated a sim­il­ar pro­hib­i­tion for mem­bers of the mil­it­ary last year. Fed­er­al fund­ing for abor­tions is pro­hib­ited out­side the above three situ­ations.

Op­pon­ents of the Peace Corps ban ar­gue that vo­lun­teers should have the same ac­cess to cov­er­age. And, they say, giv­en that the Peace Corps is 60 per­cent fe­male, and typ­ic­ally in po­ten­tially ris­ki­er situ­ations, the emer­gency cov­er­age is all the more crit­ic­al.

The ap­pro­pri­ations pro­cess has fol­lowed a pre­dict­able pat­tern in re­cent years, however, with the Sen­ate aim­ing to lift the fund­ing re­stric­tion, and the House re­peatedly up­hold­ing it. Without bicam­er­al sup­port, at­tempts to strike the ban have fallen flat.

However, this year was the first in which a stand-alone bill ad­dress­ing the is­sue was in­tro­duced in the House, giv­ing abor­tion-rights ad­voc­ates hope that this time might be dif­fer­ent.

The Peace Corps Equity Act of 2014 was in­tro­duced by Demo­crat­ic Rep. Nita Lowey of New York in May, while a cor­res­pond­ing bill was re­in­tro­duced by Demo­crat­ic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hamp­shire in the Sen­ate. The ef­fort was ori­gin­ally spear­headed by the late Sen. Frank Lauten­berg.

Pres­id­ent Obama has in­cluded fund­ing for emer­gency abor­tion ser­vices for Peace Corps vo­lun­teers in his budget pro­pos­al for the past two years.

“This is the first time it has got­ten through House Ap­pro­pri­ations,” Mat­thew Den­nis, com­mu­nic­a­tions dir­ect­or for House Ap­pro­pri­ations Demo­crats, wrote in an email. “The fact that both House and Sen­ate com­mit­tees have ap­proved it is im­port­ant as the pro­cess moves for­ward.”

A full vote on the le­gis­la­tion has not yet been sched­uled in the House or Sen­ate.

What We're Following See More »
Reagan Families, Allies Lash Out at Will Ferrell
55 minutes ago

Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."

Clinton No Longer Running Primary Ads
3 hours ago

In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-ex­pec­ted primary battle be­hind her, former Sec­ret­ary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton (D) is no longer go­ing on the air in up­com­ing primary states. “Team Clin­ton hasn’t spent a single cent in … Cali­for­nia, In­di­ana, Ken­tucky, Ore­gon and West Vir­gin­ia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “cam­paign has spent a little more than $1 mil­lion in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone back­er in the Sen­ate, said the can­did­ate should end his pres­id­en­tial cam­paign if he’s los­ing to Hil­lary Clin­ton after the primary sea­son con­cludes in June, break­ing sharply with the can­did­ate who is vow­ing to take his in­sur­gent bid to the party con­ven­tion in Phil­adelphia.”

Movie Based on ‘Clinton Cash’ to Debut at Cannes
4 hours ago

The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."

Former Sen. Conrad Burns Dies in Montana
5 hours ago

Conrad Burns, the colorful livestock auctioneer and radio executive from Montana who served three terms as a senator, died on Thursday at age 81. Burns "was ousted from office in 2006 under the specter of scandal after developing close ties to "super-lobbyist" Jack Abramoff," although no charges were ever filed.

Biden Goes Max Biden at the Vatican
5 hours ago

In an exchange not ripped from the page of The Onion, Vice President Biden revealed to a Vatican cardinal that he's been betting reporters on which cars are faster. After meeting privately with Pope Francis, Biden met with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State. Within moments of greeting one another, Biden said that he'd met with the pope and, gesturing to the press pool, "I've met with these guys too." Singling out reporter Gardiner Harris, who recounted the exchange, he said, "I had to pay this man $10. He's from the New York Times. We had a bet: which is the faster car, the newer Cadillac or the new [Tesla]. ... The Tesla's two tenths of a second faster. But I lost. I paid my $10." He joked that he's "seeking absolution."