Abortion rights group defends AmeriCorps after violations

Abortion rights group defends AmeriCorps after violations
© Francis Rivera

A leading abortion rights group is defending AmeriCorps after a half-dozen of the service program's workers violated federal laws by helping women seeking abortions.

NARAL Pro-Choice America is launching a national campaign to repeal the so-called gag rule that prevents service-oriented groups, including AmeriCorps, from promoting or supporting abortions in any way.

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"Banning Americorps volunteers from referring women for abortion services is yet another abhorrent example of this unfair targeting of low-income women,” NARAL Vice President Sasha Bruce wrote in a letter to supporters, provided to The Hill.

The group is organizing a petition to Congress, which it will promote in letters to supporters as well as on Facebook and Twitter.

AmeriCorps has been under scrutiny this week after a federal investigation found one of the program’s biggest partners, the National Association of Community Health Centers, had been using its funds to escort women to abortion clinics.

NARAL's campaign is the first response from abortion rights supporters following the investigation, which was first reported by The Hill late Monday.

The misuse of the funding has sparked an outcry from Republicans in Congress.

Senior lawmakers, including Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), have condemned AmeriCorps and its partners for the “shameful failure of trust.”

Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who oversees health funding on the House Appropriations Committee, also called for a national investigation into AmeriCorps and its grant partners.

- This post was updated April 28 at 2 p.m.