Senate Hearing on Sexual Assault in the Military Begins Today
Today Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Chair of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel, convened a hearing to investigate sexual assault in the military. The hearing includes testimony from individuals who have been victims of rape and sexual assault while serving, and is the first Senate hearing to examine sexual assault in the military in almost a decade.
This hearing comes on the heels of yet another tragic example of the military's failure to protect victims and hold perpetrators of sexual assault accountable. Earlier this month, a Lieutenant General at Aviano Air Base, Craig Franklin, overturned the aggravated sexual assault conviction of Lieutenant Colonel James Wilkerson, who had been sentenced to a year in military prison and a dismissal from the Air Force by a jury of his peers.
The overriding theme of both the Senate hearing and a press conference held yesterday by Congresswoman Jackie Speier has been the issue of command interference in sexual assault investigations and prosecutions. Currently, the military justice system allows commanders unilateral discretion over all cases--including the ability to shut an investigation down at any stage in the process without explanation. Congresswoman Speier announced that she will introduce a new bill, the "Military Judicial Reform Act," that would strip military commanders of the unilateral power to overturn convictions or lessen sentences handed down by judges and juries at courts martial.
Media Resources: Speier.House.Gov 3/12/2013; Gillibrand.Senate.Gov 3/6/2013, 2/28/2013; Feminist Newswire 3/6/2013
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .