A little talked-about change in the Serve America Act that recently passed into law includes a new “prohibited activity” for AmeriCorps members.
A new category has been added to the list of prohibited activities in the new law that will take affect October 1: AmeriCorps staff and members will be barred from “providing abortion services or referrals for receipt of such services.” The category seems to be included in order to quell the concerns of conservative groups that Federal funding will go to support abortions since, for example, Planned Parenthood chapters often host AmeriCorps members to work on public health education topics.
And a word on prohibited activities which seem to confuse people unfamiliar with national service to no end.
While charging time to the AmeriCorps program, accumulating service or training hours, or otherwise performing activities supported by the AmeriCorps program or the Corporation for National and Community Service, staff and all AmeriCorps members are prohibited from engaging in certain activities —like attempting to influence legislation; assisting, promoting, or deterring union organizing; and engaging in protests, petitions, boycotts, or strikes.
AmeriCorps members and their site supervisors learn about and accept these limitations on members’s service. The prohibited activities are not an attempt to violate anyone’s rights but to separate an AmeriCorps staff or corps member’s funded service time from controversial actions that Congress and taxpayers can’t agree to fund.
Staff and AmeriCorps members may exercise their rights as private citizens and may participate in these same activities on their own initiative, on non-AmeriCorps time, and using non-Corporation funds. Individuals should not wear the AmeriCorps logo while doing so. In their free time, for example, when they are not counting their AmeriCorps hours, members are permitted to write their Congressional representatives and attend worship services as they wish.