Abortion Or Quit: Raped Peace Corps Volunteer Forced To Choose

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The Peace Corps Responds

A Peace Corps spokesperson said the organization declined to comment on the specific details of Clark's case in order to protect her privacy, but said the victims of sexual assault deserve nothing but compassion and support.

"The Peace Corps is united in our efforts with returned volunteers, outside organizations, and leaders in the field of sexual assault awareness to strengthen our global operations and support for the thousands of volunteers serving around the world," said the spokesperson.

"We apologize for any additional pain the agency inflicted on our volunteers. The Peace Corps of today takes the issue of sexual assault prevention and response seriously and we are dedicated to providing compassionate victim-centered care."

The spokesperson also said that "blaming any victim of crime is not tolerated. Under Director Aaron Williams' leadership, the agency has implemented a number of measures to expand our ability and commitment to prevent and respond to sexual assaults."

The Peace Corps spokesperson said it is not policy to force a woman to choose to have an abortion or leave the organization. "We do not counsel volunteers that they must choose to terminate a pregnancy or go home," said the spokesperson. "That is not acceptable. "

"As part of our pregnancy counseling, we work with the volunteer to make the decision that is most comfortable for them," said the spokesperson, citing Peace Corps policy. "However, we cannot guarantee adequate pregnancy care for Volunteers beyond their first trimester and in many malaria prone countries we encourage Volunteers to return to the U.S. immediately to protect their health."

The spokesperson added that if a volunteer becomes pregnant during service, the organization will pay for pre-natal care for as long as she is in service, and for the remainder of pre-natal care and the birth through the Federal Employees' Compensation Act.

According to Peace Corps policy, however, a volunteer who chooses to continue her pregnancy can be "medically separated" by the Peace Corps if adequate medical care is not available where she is stationed.

"If a Volunteer chooses to terminate her pregnancy," said the spokesperson, "we pay for pregnancy counseling, related health expenses, and travel. However, we are not authorized to pay for the abortion procedure for any reason. There is no exception, even for the life of the mother, incest, or rape."

The spokesperson said the current policy on pregnancy has been in place "since the early '80s." The Peace Corps has also created a Sexual Assault Working Group (SAWG) which is in the process of completing a comprehensive sexual assault and rape prevention and response program, and has been working with experts across the federal government in addition to national advocacy groups, according to the Peace Corps.

A Peace Corps spokesperson said the organization will never be able to eliminate volunteers' exposure to crimes overseas, but that it "will continue to do its best to make Peace Corps a safe and productive experience for the Americans serving today and the future."

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