AmeriCorps workers helped young women get abortions

AmeriCorps workers helped young women get abortions
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Six members of the national service program AmeriCorps recently escorted young pregnant women to abortion clinics in a “direct violation” of federal funding rules, a government watchdog will report Tuesday.

The volunteers served as clinic escorts, also known as “abortion doulas,” in parts of New York City, according to a source familiar with the report from a federal inspector general’s office. A summary of the report will be published online Tuesday.

In their roles, such volunteers provide emotional support to women seeking abortions, as well as transportation to and from the clinics if needed. That service is prohibited under the language of federal grants that help fund the program, the source said.

The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the federal agency that oversees AmeriCorps, said in a statement it was “deeply disappointed” one of its partners had violated program rules — and federal law.

The group, the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC), allowed six volunteers to “perform prohibited activities,” violations which took place at one of the 34 community health centers that works with AmeriCorps’s health branch.

“Although the Office of the Inspector General’s (OIG) investigation concluded the misconduct occurred on an extremely limited scope, the grantee broke the law and violated the spirit of national service,” CNCS spokeswoman Samantha Jo Warfield wrote in a statement to The Hill. She did not detail the prohibited behavior.

Dave Taylor, chief operating officer of the NACHC, said in a statement to The Hill that the group’s leadership “self-reported the issue to the proper authorities” immediately after learning about the potential violations.

“We take this matter seriously,” Taylor said, adding that the NACHC has cooperated with the federal community service office and the watchdog group throughout the investigation. He declined to provide any details about the investigation but said his organization had received a copy of the full report.

So far, the response to the investigation has been far-reaching.

The government’s community service office said it imposed “tough and detailed reforms” to hold groups like the NACHC accountable.

It also took steps to penalize the NACHC, requiring the group to hire an outside “oversight monitor” while also banning it from enrolling any new volunteers under its grant. 

The community health group also reported that it took steps quickly to halt the program. The group further required its staff to be retrained on “all relevant rules and regulations related to AmeriCorps prohibited activities.”

“We moved immediately to cease the activity in question, and suspended the identified site’s AmeriCorps members for a period until they and their site supervisors were retrained and revised member service contracts were reviewed and signed,” Taylor wrote in a statement.

The group also revised the contracts of 500 other partners “to prevent future misinterpretations.”

AmeriCorps is a federally funded community service program with about 80,000 volunteers nationally. Its managing agency, the CNCS, received about $1.1 billion in federal funds last year.

 This post was updated at 10:56 p.m.