142nd APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition

Annual Meeting Recordings are now available for purchase

No exceptions: Documenting the abortion experiences of US Peace Corps Volunteers

142nd APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition (November 15 - November 19, 2014): http://www.apha.org/events-and-meetings/annual
Monday, November 17, 2014 : 3:00 PM - 3:15 PM

Angel M. Foster, DPhil, MD, AM , Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Ottawa & Ibis Reproductive Health, Somerville, MA
Grady Arnott, MSc(c) , University of Ottawa, ON, Canada
James Trussell, PhD , Office of Population Research, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ
Introduction: Since 1979 annual appropriations bills have restricted abortion coverage for US Peace Corps Volunteers. There are no exceptions to the coverage ban, even in cases when the pregnancy threatens the woman’s life or when the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest. Through in-depth interviews with returned Peace Corps volunteers (RPCVs) we aimed to document RPCVs's abortion experiences and explore RPCVs’ knowledge of and opinions about the funding restrictions.

Methods: All RPCVs who served during 1979-2013 were eligible to participate. Interviews averaged 60 minutes and were audio-recorded. We analyzed our data using descriptive statistics and content and thematic analysis.

Results: In 2013, our study team conducted interviews with 433 RPCVs. Twenty one women reported at least one personal abortion experience while in service and another 22 participants reported on the abortion experience of someone else. In general, women experienced considerable barriers to obtaining abortion care while in service and several reported obtaining illegal (but relatively safe) abortions in country. Overwhelmingly, RPCVs were not informed of the abortion policy during their service, and few knew of the full extent of the restrictions. After learning about the policy, over 97% of participants disagreed with the current restrictions.

Conclusions: There are several efforts underway to lift the current ban; this includes the Peace Corps Equity Act of 2013 which would reconcile abortion coverage for PCVs with that of other federally funded groups. Our results reveal that there is both a need for this reform and strong support among RPCVs.

Learning Areas:

Advocacy for health and health education
Ethics, professional and legal requirements
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines
Public health or related public policy
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Describe the federal policy restricting abortion coverage for US Peace Corps Volunteers Identify the impact of the funding restrictions on women's abortion experiences

Keyword(s): Abortion, Policy/Policy Development

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I hold an Endowed Chair in Women's Health Research at the University of Ottawa where I am an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences. I am also an Affiliated Scholar at Ibis Reproductive Health. I have served as the PI of studies related to reproductive health in ten countries in the Middle East and North Africa, Asia, and North America. I am the current Chair of the PRSH Section of APHA.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.

Back to: 3386.0: Abortion in the US