GOP-led panel approves amendment to expand abortion coverage

The House Appropriations Committee voted to lift the ban on emergency abortion coverage for Peace Corps volunteers in a surprise win for abortion-rights advocates.

The Republican-led panel approved an amendment Tuesday that would allow women in the Peace Corps to receive abortion coverage for pregnancies arising from rape or incest or that endanger the woman's life.

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The amendment is now attached to the State Department spending bill for fiscal 2015. It was approved by voice vote, without an official record of the members who opposed it.

Federal employees currently benefit from the same set of exceptions to the wider ban on taxpayer funding for abortion.

Abortion-rights groups have sought to extend the same rules to the Peace Corps, which is mostly populated by women but previously encountered opposition from House Republicans.

It is unclear what changed Republican lawmakers' minds on Tuesday.

The vote followed a lobbying effort by current and former Peace Corps volunteers, along with an editorial supporting the move in The New York Times, but these strategies rarely sway GOP lawmakers who oppose abortion rights.

Center for Reproductive Rights President Nancy Northup declared the vote "historic" in a statement.

"No longer will women in the Peace Corps be denied coverage for abortion care after they’ve been raped or when they face life-threatening pregnancy complications. And no longer will they have to face the indignity of being forced to pay for essential medical care with their own limited resources," Northup said.

The Senate Appropriations Committee already approved similar language to its 2015 spending bill for the State Department, signaling that the provision has a path to become law this year.