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South Dakota Lawmaker Compares Doctors to Nazis after Introducing Bill To Block Treatment for Trans Youth

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  • The South Dakota House is expected to vote Wednesday on a bill that would bar doctors in the state from providing treatments to transgender youth. 
  • Republican Rep Fred Deutsch, who introduced the bill, compared gender confirmation surgeries to experiments performed by Nazi scientists in concentration camps during the Holocaust.
  • On Monday, Deutsch said he regretted making the comparison but said he still supports the bill.

The Bill

As South Dakota state representatives prepare to vote on a bill that would prohibit doctors from providing treatment medicine to transgender youth, the bill’s sponsor is backtracking on a previous statement where he insinuated that those doctors perform experiments similar to Nazi scientists.

The bill in question—HB 1057—would only block doctors from providing trans treatment services to patients under 16. Specifically, it would make it illegal for doctors to treat transgender youth with hormones, puberty blockers, or gender confirmation surgery. 

The major argument among supporters is that the bill is a step to protect “vulnerable” children from making permanent, life-changing decisions to their bodies.

“If you care about kids, I think you have to prioritize them,” the bill’s sponsor, Republican Representative Fred Deutsch, said in a podcast with the Family Research Council. “And in South Dakota, we don’t allow mutilation of our children. I don’t care if it’s doctors. I don’t care if it’s parents. You know, these kids on the Internet, they share pictures of themselves that just blow you away—of all these surgical scars, and it’s terrible.” 

Deutsch said he drafted the bill after discovering sites like Reddit, where he said he read stories from people who regretted transitioning. Since its introduction on January 14, it has been referred to and passed through the House State Affairs Committee.

Nazi Experiments Comparison

Deutsch was made a subject of further attention during the FRC podcast, where he sat down with FRC President Tony Perkins. In it, Deutsch compared gender confirmation surgery (also known as sex reassignment surgery) to experiments performed on Nazi concentration camp prisoners.

“To me, that’s a crime against humanity when these procedures are done by these so-called doctors, you know, that dance on the edge of medicine,” Deutsch said last week on the podcast. “I just don’t think it should be done. You know, I’m a son of a Holocaust survivor. I’ve had family members killed in Auschwitz. And I’ve seen the pictures of the bizarre medical experiments. I don’t want that to happen to our kids. And that’s what’s going on right now.”

Deutsch’s comment also came at an especially sensitive time because this week marks the 75th anniversary of the Auschwitz liberation.

However, Deutsch is not alone in his comparison. When the State Affairs Committee voted on the bill last week, others used similar language.

“Examples in the United States, the despicable Tuskegee syphilis experiment on African-Americans. The entire German medical establishment was behind atrocious human eugenics experiments in Nazi Germany, including untold numbers of children,” California endocrinologist Michael Laidlaw told the committee.

Deutsch Backtracks His Comparison

On Monday, Deutsch backtracked on the statement he made in the podcast, telling the Sioux Falls Argus Leader that he never meant to equate doctors who provide treatments to transgender youth as being the same as Nazis. 

“I’ve been to a whole bunch of Holocaust museums all over the world. It’s very personal to me,” he told the newspaper. “It’s just a simple reflection that the pictures seem similar to me.”

In an interview with The Washington Post published Tuesday, Deutsch further added that he regrets making the comparison.

“I regret saying anything at all,” he told The Post. “It was pretty stupid.”

“You look at photos of the Holocaust and they’re gross,” he also added. “And then you look at the scars of these children and they’re equally—I don’t know if they’re equally—they’re also gross. Sometimes you see a picture, you hear a sound, you smell something that reminds you of something else and that’s all it was.”

Will the Bill Pass?

The House had been expected to vote on HB 1057 on Monday, but that vote was delayed until Wednesday afternoon. As far as whether or not it will become law, that’s unclear.

Last year, the House passed a bill that would have barred transgender students from playing on athletic teams that match their gender identity, but it ultimately failed in the Senate by a single vote.

Back in 2016, Deutsch proposed another bill related to trans rights, this one a “bathroom bill” that would require public school students to use the restrooms and lockers rooms of their biological sex. That later passed the state legislature but was unexpectedly vetoed by then-governor Dennis Daugaard.

Other states like South Carolina, Colorado, Florida, and Missouri have introduced similar legislation. None of those bills have yet to see any votes.

Regarding HB 1057, Governor Kristi Noem has expressed concern about the bill, though she has not indicated one way or the other if she will veto it.

“When you take public policy and try to fill parenting gaps with more government, you have to be very careful about the precedent you’re setting,” she said. 

Also, even though the bill won its committee vote 8-5, that victory was not along party lines. Of the five representatives that voted “no,” three were Republican.

If the bill were to become law, doctors would face a Class 1 misdemeanor for helping treat transgender youth, with the maximum penalty of one year in jail and a fine up to $2,000. 

Trans Advocates Call Bill Misinformed

On the other side of the debate, trans advocates have called the bill, and its justification, misinformed and dangerous to trans youth.

The American Academy of Pediatrics notes puberty blockers, which the bill would ban, are both reversible and can lower the risk of those children developing mental health conditions.

Additionally, though the bill would outlaw gender confirmation surgeries for trans youth, most doctors rarely ever recommend that children under 18 undergo the operation. Usually, doctors advise that youth wait until adulthood for permanent procedures.

If an trans adult does want to later undergo surgery, the American Academy of Pediatrics states that the use of puberty blockers can reduce the amount of surgery needed.  This is because they prevent the sex-specific development of features like Adam’s Apples, male pattern baldness, voice changes, breast growth, etc. 

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Rolling Stone) (KSKY)

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Trump Signs Order Allowing Former Troops to Be Called Upon for Coronavirus Fight

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  • President Trump signed an executive order that allows for former troops to be brought back to active duty to help fight the coronavirus pandemic.
  • This is not an immediate order to call former service members back, but it is typically used when the military is in need of specific skill sets, like persons with high demand medical capabilities. 
  • Officials are still reviewing who might be activated.
  • The order comes just days after the Army called upon former service members to voluntarily rejoin and help in the military’s response efforts. Over 14,000 have expressed interest as of Friday. 

Trump Signs Executive Order

President Donald Trump signed an executive order Friday that allows the Pentagon to bring former U.S. troops and members of the National Gaurd and reserve back to active duty to help those already battling the county’s coronavirus outbreaks.

During his press conference Friday night, Trump said the decision allows the federal government “to mobilize medical, disaster and emergency response personnel to help wage our battle against the virus by activating thousands of experienced service members including retirees.”

“We have a lot of people, retirees, great military people — they’re coming back in,” Trump added.

What This Means

The executive order released by the White House states that anyone recalled can remain on active duty for up to 24 months straight. It provides the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security the authority to order as many as 1 million individuals at one time, however, it is not an order to do so. 

According to Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman, the order applies to units and individual members in the National Guard and Reserves and certain Individual Ready Reserve members who are normally in an inactive status.

Hoffman said that decisions about who may be activated are still being reviewed, but he added, “Generally, these members will be persons in Headquarters units and persons with high demand medical capabilities whose call-up would not adversely affect their civilian communities.” 

As of now, the Individual Ready Reserve contains 224,841 members, according to the Department of Defense, and nearly 11,000 of those members “have medical capabilities.”

“This is a dynamic situation, we do not currently have a projected number of expected activations, but the Department is now fully authorized to make activations as needed,” Hoffman said. 

He also stressed that the departments would consult with state officials before using any National Gaurd Reserve Component units under the executive order.

Earlier this week, the Army called upon former service members to voluntarily rejoin and help in the military’s pandemic response efforts. The Army said the initial response has been positive, with at least 14,6000 people expressing interest as of Friday.

See what others are saying: (Politico) (CNN) (Fox News)

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FDA Authorizes Portable Test Kit That Can Detect COVID-19 in 5 Minutes

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  • The FDA has approved the use of a new coronavirus test kit that can give positive results in as little as 5 minutes and negative results in 13, leaps faster than the hours and sometimes days laboratory tests normally take. 
  • The tests are run on a lightweight and small portable device that can be used in emergency rooms, urgent care clinics, and even outside hospital walls.
  • Abbott, the medical device company that makes the kits, plans to send out 50,000 tests a day starting next week.

New Test Approved

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave Emergency Use Authorization to the medical device company Abbott for a new coronavirus test kit that gives results within minutes.

Abbott announced the news in a Friday press release, saying it plans to start delivering 50,000 tests a day beginning next week. The tests run on the company’s ID NOW platform, a portable device about the size of a small toaster than weights only 6.6 pounds.

Its portability means it can be used directly in an emergency room or urgent care clinic and even, “outside the traditional four walls of a hospital in outbreak hotspots.”

The company called it “the fastest available molecular point-of-care test for the detection of novel coronavirus(COVID-19), delivering positive results in as little as five minutes and negative results in 13 minutes.”

Second Rapid Test to Be Approved by FDA 

The approval from federal health officials means that regulators were satisfied with the test’s validation data and are confident that its benefits outweigh any risk, like false positives or negatives. 

The FDA’s approval marks the seconds time it has green-lit a fast working test that could accelerate testing across the country.  Last week, it approved a 45-minute rapid point of care test by the molecular diagnostics company Cepheid. However, that test is primarily intended for emergency rooms and hospitals, not doctors’ officers or urgent care clinics.  

Still, those turnaround times are leaps faster than the hours to days it takes most laboratory tests to bring results. 

Medical Shortages Still Cause Concern 

The approval of the Abbott test comes as cities across the nation battle with numbers of potential patients that surpass available tests and resources. Even with insufficient testing, the United States became the country with the largest number of reported cases of coronavirus on Thursday, exceeding China and Italy. By Friday, the U.S. hit more than 100,000 cases. 

Many fear that shortages of other critical medical equipment, like masks and swabs, could stifle the new rapid test’s impact. That’s because the kit requires a swab sample collected from patients, and many health care facilities are running desperately low on the tools needed to safely collect those samples.

The Center for Disease Control issued guidance Tuesday that allows some patients to collect their own nasal swabs in health care facilities, in an effort to reduce the amount of protective equipment needed for health care workers. 

On the opposite end, however, others note that fast and efficient testing can help medical professionals determine how much protective equipment they actually need to wear when interacting with a patient, as well as what kind of care to provide. Since this test can be done in a doctor’s office, it could even potentially help diagnose patients with mild or asymptomatic cases of the virus and help stop them from unknowingly spreading it. 

Experts also say drastically increasing testing capacity can help get the economy back on track sooner. With increased testing, measures like keeping everyone at home could be replaced with more targeted identification and isolation of those infected. 

See what others are saying: (The Hill) (CNBC) (CNN

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EPA Limits Environmental Regulations During Coronavirus Crisis

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  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday that it is scaling back its enforcement of environmental rules during the coronavirus emergency as businesses face challenges like layoffs and accessibility issues.
  • The temporary policy allows companies to monitor their own compliance with environmental laws, and the EPA said it will not issue penalties for violations of certain reporting requirements.
  • Many critics slammed the move, arguing that it opens doors to excess pollution and does not prioritize the health and safety of people and wildlife.   
  • The EPA defended the policy, saying it has reserved its authorities for situations other than routine monitoring and reporting and will consider the pandemic’s impacts on a “case-to-case basis.”

Temporary Policy 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says it will limit the enforcement of certain regulations as the coronavirus pandemic continues, leaving companies in charge of monitoring their own compliance with environmental laws. 

The agency unveiled the temporary policy on Thursday, arguing that businesses are running into obstacles like layoffs and accessibility issues as the virus alters normal life across the nation.

“EPA is committed to protecting human health and the environment, but recognizes challenges resulting from efforts to protect workers and the public from COVID-19 may directly impact the ability of regulated facilities to meet all federal regulatory requirements,” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a statement.  

Under normal circumstances, companies must report when their facilities release a certain amount of pollution into the air or water. Now, that requirement will be put on hold for the time being. 

“In general, the EPA does not expect to seek penalties for violations of routine compliance monitoring, integrity testing, sampling, laboratory analysis, training, and reporting or certification obligations in situations where the EPA agrees that Covid-19 was the cause of the noncompliance and the entity provides supporting documentation to the EPA upon request,” the policy states.

The agency also said it would exercise “discretion” in enforcing other environmental rules. It noted that the policy does not apply to criminal violations or hundreds of the country’s most toxic waste sites that fall under the Superfund act. The EPA also said it expects public water systems to maintain high standards. 

“Public water systems have a heightened responsibility to protect public health because unsafe drinking water can lead to serious illnesses and access to clean water for drinking and handwashing is critical during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the policy says.

The memo said that the changes will apply retroactively beginning on March 13, with no set end date indicated. 

Criticism of New Policy

Some, including people in the oil industry, had been asking for these regulations to be loosened, but others slammed the EPA’s choice, claiming it is too broad and lax. 

Gina McCarthy, who headed the EPA under the Obama administration and is now president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, called the policy an “open license to pollute.” 

Some called the changes “outrageous” and “evil,” accusing the EPA of prioritizing businesses over the health of individuals and wildlife.

Prominent figures in the climate change fight slammed the move as well.

“The EPA uses this global pandemic to create loopholes for destroying the environment,” teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg tweeted. “This is a schoolbook example for what we need to start looking out for.”

Others pointed out the irony of suspending rules that preserve air quality while a respiratory disease makes its rounds across the country. 

“What part of, ‘air pollution increases our vulnerability to respiratory diseases LIKE CORONAVIRUS,’ is not clear, EPA?” one Twitter user wrote.

Defense of Policy

The EPA stood behind their move and did not agree with its classification as a dismissal of regulations. 

“It is not a nationwide waiver of environmental rules,” Andrea Woods, an E.P.A. spokeswoman, told The New York Times. “For situations outside of routine monitoring and reporting, the agency has reserved its authorities and will take the pandemic into account on a case-by-case basis.”

Susan Parker Bodine, the EPA official who issued the policy, said that it does not excuse organizations from consequences if they do committ environmental violations.

“If you do have violations of your permit, you’re still obligated to meet your permit limits, you’re supposed to do everything possible,” Bodine told ABC. “And after the fact the agency will take that all into consideration but there isn’t a promise of no penalties in those kinds of situations.”

“If you have an acute risk, if you have an imminent threat … the facility has to come in and talk to their regulator, their authorized state or come into the agency,” she added. “And the reason for that is that we want to, we want to put all of our resources into keeping these facilities safe keeping communities safe.”

See what others are saying: (New York Times) (The Guardian) (CNN)

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