Anna Clark

10 Examples of Literary Nonfiction That Make Facts Compelling

In the field of journalism, facts are not always sexy. They complicate plenty of great pieces. Background details can weigh down graceful copy. Clarifications may crowd out the heart of a story. Qualifications take away from the urgency. What’s more, a lot of facts are plain old hard to find. And for many little details – was it the sixth house on the right, or the third? – it is a lot of work to settle a point that most readers don’t care about anyway. But somehow, even in this glory age of commentary, people do still care about facts. 

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10 Books About Prison That Will Make You Rethink the United States Penal System

While the fact of prisons simmers behind innumerable news stories – from the West Memphis 3 to the Lockerbie bomber to the Miami football scandal -- the enormity of the system remains weirdly invisible. Prison is framed as a sort of conclusion; it’s where the bad guys go before vanishing into the ether and allowing our attention to move onto the next story. But more than two million lives are lived in U.S. prisons these days. And not only is the day-to-day reality of that worthy of more attention, but so are the consequences of our economic and political dependence on a punitive system that incarcerates 25 percent of the entire world’s inmates. Five percent of the world population is locked up in U.S. prisons. Both inside and outside the walls, much is stake.

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Shocking Report Reveals Epidemic of Sexual Abuse in Juvenile Prisons

An unprecedented report released last month by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) has revealed some disturbing statistics about sexual abuse in U.S. juvenile detention facilities. Twelve percent of youth held in such facilities say that they have been sexually abused over the course of one year. Or, to put it another way, more than 1 in 10 of young people under state supervision are molested and/or raped. Nearly all of these incidents involve a staff member (about 85 percent), while the rest involve another incarcerated youth.

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40 Books About Sexuality That You Have to Read

As the new school year heats up, so does the public debate about sex education. What do we teach teenagers about sex, and what do we leave them to figure out on their own? If we can agree that few teens learn about sexuality in an accurate, age-appropriate, and comprehensive way, then where does that leave adults who came through the same school systems they did? Many of us are still full of questions that we aren’t quite sure how to articulate. Few can claim that they’ve figured sex -- and its social influence -- out.

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Why Does Popular Culture Treat Prison Rape As a Joke?

Believe it: There exists a board game called "Don’t Drop the Soap" in which players are tasked with fighting their way through a prison. John Sebelius designed it as a student at the Rhode Island School of Design. He is the son of Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Secretary for Health and Human Services.

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The Truth About Home Births

While another profession might have the popular reputation of being the world's oldest, you can make a strong case that midwifery is a more realistic contender for that title. The tradition of caring for pregnant women and delivering babies in homes or community spaces is ancient the world over. And it's present today, in the providers who practice within an American medical culture in which 99% of births take place in hospitals, presided by OB/GYNs.

Jessica Mattingly, a doula from Blue Springs, MO, notes that midwifery-assisted home birth can foster the understanding that "birth is a normal, celebrated, empowering experience for a woman and her family." And, she adds, "This is not done at the sacrifice of safety for mother and baby, but at the enhancement of it. Midwives and mothers can be and are able to identify the rare cases when medical intervention is needed and can seek collaboration and assistance."

The Fight for Licensure

While dozens of professions drew their numbers together in widespread licensing systems in the last century, midwifery was not among them. While the reasons for this are unclear, it may coincide with the rise of obstetrics in the early 1900s, which seemed to be a competitor to midwifery. The profession pitched more sanitary and better-educated doctors, and that message resonated. By 1955, one percent of American births took place at home, the same rate that stands today.

The lack of licensure is a sticking point for a profession that seeks to provide high-quality, evidence-based care to women, because midwifery skeptics point to it as evidence that the practice is unsafe and unpredictable. Critics claim that its apparent lack of regulation indicates that midwifery unnecessarily endangers both the mother and the baby.

Today you need a license in the U.S. to practice psychotherapy and cosmetology, to drive trucks and to be a mortician -- but not to minister to laboring women in homes or in birthing centers. Or at least, not quite: Twenty-one states, including Wisconsin, Montana, and, very recently, Missouri and South Dakota, accept the certified professional midwife credential (CPM) for direct-entry midwife licensure. ("Direct-entry" means that standard midwifery training is recognized as sufficient to practice; the CPM isn't expected to secure an additional medical degree.) CPMs are backed by the North American Registry of Midwives "to provide out-of-hospital maternity care for healthy women experiencing normal pregnancies," according to Steff Hedenkamp of the advocacy organization, The Big Push for Midwives.

CPMs complete training that lasts three to five years and requires hours in birth observations, classrooms, and clinics. CPMs also pass a national board exam that includes a clinical assessment, out-of-hospital training, and continuing education and re-certification every three years. The CPM is recognized by the American Public Health Association as a basis for licensure.

But while CPMs are certified in their profession and practice across the country, they're not necessarily licensed. Licensure is up to boards that are set up on a state-to-state basis, and it is here that things get complicated. Certification by itself doesn't offer legal protection or permission to practice. When a state makes licensing available, it protects the midwife from criminal charges for practicing, even at the highest CPM standards. It's also likely to increase its number of active midwives, and those midwives will be more accessible to citizens via public awareness and, potentially, insurance reimbursement.

In more than half the U.S. states, midwives are vulnerable to prosecution for practicing medicine without a license. In 2006, an Indiana midwife who had overseen 1,500 births was prosecuted for just that when a baby she delivered didn't live. The law that could have put her in prison for eight years, and ultimately put her on probation, still stands. Midwives who practice in the District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, and many other states face the same threat. Yet they're unable to receive licenses in states that don't recognize midwifery as a viable profession and, rather, see OB/GYN care in hospitals to be the appropriate route for laboring women.

Traditional Medical Organizations Oppose Home Birth

At its 2008 annual meeting in Chicago last month, the American Medical Association passed a resolution opposing home birth. While it didn't directly oppose direct-entry midwifery, it cited the "twenty-one states (that) currently license midwives to attend home births, all using the certified professional midwife (CPM) credential (CPM or "lay" midwives) ... " as cause for its challenge to home birth.

The AMA resolution quoted the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in saying that "the safest setting for labor, delivery, and the immediate post-partum period is in the hospital, or a birthing center within a hospital complex."

For its part, ACOG reiterated its opposition to home births last February:

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