In December, Ina May Gaskin was awarded the Right Livelihood Award for pioneering the modern midwifery and home birthing movements and for calling attention to the U.S. maternal death rate—one of the highest in the industrialized world, especially for Black and Hispanic women. The award sparked fierce controversy within the feminist community between those for home births and those like Dr. Amy Tuteur, a retired obstetrician, who stated that homebirth has killed more women and babies than hospital birth.
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On Nov. 7, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women ruled that Peru amend its laws to allow abortion in cases of rape and guarantee access to abortion when it is already legal—when a woman’s life or health is endangered. Women’s groups sued on behalf of a 13-year-old-girl, raped by neighborhood men for four years. Upon becoming pregnant, she attempted suicide by jumping off a roof. She survived with a broken spine, but doctors refused to operate as it might harm her pregnancy. She miscarried, but the delay in her care decreased the success of the surgery, and she is now a quadriplegic.
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On Nov. 17, Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) announced the STOP (Sexual Assault Training Oversight and Prevention) act to create a military Sexual Oversight and Response Office to remove the handling of sexual assaults from the chain of command. Now, women must report sexual assault to their immediate supervisors, who must then go up the chain of command. But most assailants are of higher rank than their victims, who in some cases must report to the rapists. Also, victims have often been punished by commanders trying to protect their reputations from scandal. Military rape is rampant, with nearly one in three women sexually assaulted, under 20% of assaults reported, and a mere 8% of assailants prosecuted.