Target: Peace Corps Deputy Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet
Goal: Increase medical care to cover abortions for rape victims
Currently, the Peace Corps does not provide its women volunteers with adequate health coverage. If a Peace Corps volunteer is raped while abroad and becomes pregnant, the Peace Corps does not cover the volunteer’s abortion. Federal law requires that health insurance cover abortions in the event of a rape, yet somehow the Peace Corps is exempt from doing so. This puts women volunteers in a terrible emotional position and in physical danger, not to mention denies them of a federally afforded right. Demand that the Peace Corps include abortion coverage in their health plan.
Peace Corps volunteers work for almost free, receiving a stipend that covers their basic necessities, as well as full medical and dental care. Once they get back to the United States, they are paid $225 for each month of their service, and if they complete the entire service, a bonus of $6,075. Because they do not receive this money until they are back in the States, it is hard to see how a victim might be able to afford an abortion abroad. More importantly, it is overwhelmingly more difficult for victims to seek out proper medical care in an unfamiliar country.
Firsthand accounts reveal the horror Peace Corps rape victims have faced. After being raped for a second time and fearing pregnancy, Mary Kate Shannon was told by a healthcare coordinator that she had limited options: “If I were pregnant, the Peace Corps could not pay for the abortion due to some kind of federal law,” Shannon intimated in an interview with Salon. The Peace Corps would, however, pay for parenting classes. Shannon said that she “felt betrayed . . . like it was a decision that was going to be made for me. I wasn’t in a place financially where I felt like I could pay for it.” Another volunteer recounts in a blog post: “There is nothing more unique than being a Peace Corps rape survivor. . . the challenges we face: faraway legal systems, magnified loneliness and isolation, being away from family in your greatest hour of need, and the unique form of mental health support we receive because of limited in country resources”.
It is clear that these victims need a more effective and supportive way to deal with the physical aftermath of rape. Right now, they do not receive the assistance or coverage that they deserve. Implore the Peace Corps to extend their medical coverage to abortion.
Dear Ms. Hessler-Radelet,
Right now, you are not protecting your female volunteers. In the event that a volunteer is raped and needs to have an abortion, the Peace Corps does not cover this highly important medical procedure. Even though federal law dictates that health insurance cover abortions in the event of a rape, the Peace Corps is exempt from this. Though there is no current mandate that you must provide women with abortion services in the event of a rape, you should.
By not doing so, you are putting your women volunteers in grave emotional and physical danger. A rape itself is a beyond overwhelming and terrifying experience. Dealing with the aftermath, including a possible pregnancy, is another horror by itself. These volunteers are in foreign countries without the support of their friends and family and they often do not speak the language or know how to access proper medical care. Please do not leave your women volunteers out in the cold – provide them with abortion coverage.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Grondle via Wikimedia Commons