- 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.
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.
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)
FDA Authorizes Moderna and J&J COVID Vaccine Boosters, Approves Mix-and-Match Doses
The approval will allow at-risk Americans who received Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to get any booster six months after their initial series and all Johnson & Johnson recipients 18 and older to do the same two months after their single-shot dose.
New FDA Authorization
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday authorized boosters shots of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines and approved a mix-and-match strategy that will allow people who got one company’s shot to get a booster from a different maker.
The decision paves the way for millions of more at-risk Americans to get extra protection, and not just certain Pfizer recipients as previously approved by the FDA.
Under the authorization, people who received Moderna or Pfizer can get any one of the three booster shots six months after completing their initial series if they are 65 and older, at high risk of severe COVID, or face increased exposure because of their work.
Meanwhile, all J&J recipients 18 and older can get any of the approved vaccines two months after they received the one-shot jab.
Hazy Recommendations, For Now
Notably, the FDA did not recommend a certain combination of vaccines, nor did the agency say whether or not it would be more effective for people to stick with their original vaccine maker for their booster.
The new authorizations draw on a study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which found that there are no safety concerns with mixing boosters and that vaccine combinations were at least as effective in stimulating antibodies as matched vaccines.
In the case of J&J recipients, the NIH found that people actually had a higher boost from mixing either Moderna or Pfizer boosters.
However, some of the scientists who worked on the study said it should not be used to recommend one combination over another because the research was limited.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which determines vaccine recommendations, could issue more guidance on when and whether people should switch vaccine makers for their booster shots.
An advisory panel for the agency is meeting Thursday to discuss the new FDA authorizations and recommendations.
Once the panel makes its decision, the CDC director has the final say on the guidelines. If the agency agrees with the FDA’s decisions, the booster shots could be rolled out as soon as this weekend.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Washington Post)
Paris Hilton Urges Lawmakers To Crack Down on Abusive Teen Treatment Facilities
The heiress alleges that she was a victim of abuse in these types of centers for two years and wants to ensure that no child suffers through the same experience.
Paris Hilton Details Abuse Within “Troubled Teen Industry”
Socialite and entrepreneur Paris Hilton spoke outside of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday to support the Accountability for Congregate Care Act, which is set to be introduced in the near future.
Hilton joined Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) to advocate for the legislation, which aims to create a “bill of rights” for children in treatment and behavioral centers.
The heiress has alleged that she spent two of her teenage years in these types of facilities and was subject to rampant abuse. She is far from alone.
During a press conference, Hilton said that one night when she was 16, she woke up to two large men in her bedroom forcing her out of her house. She said she screamed for help because she thought she was being kidnapped, but her parents watched as she was taken away to a “troubled teen” program.
“Like countless other parents of teens, my parents had searched for solutions to my rebellious behavior,” she explained in an op-ed for The Washington Post this week. “Unfortunately, they fell for the misleading marketing of the ‘troubled teen industry’ — therapeutic boarding schools, military-style boot camps, juvenile justice facilities, behavior modification programs and other facilities that generate roughly $50 billion annually in part by pitching ‘tough love’ as the answer to problematic behavior.”
Hilton said she was sent to four different facilities where she was “physically and psychologically abused.”
“I was strangled, slapped across the face, watched in the shower by male staff, called vulgar names, forced to take medication without a diagnosis, not given a proper education, thrown into solitary confinement in a room covered in scratch marks and smeared in blood and so much more,” she explained during the press conference.
“At Provo Canyon School in Utah, I was given clothes with a number on the tag. I was no longer me, I was only number 127,” she continued. “I was forced to stay indoors for 11 months straight, no sunlight, no fresh air. These were considered privileges.”
Goals of the Accountability for Congregate Care Act
Hilton claims that a lack of transparency and accountability has allowed this structure of abuse to thrive for decades. In some cases, she said it has taken children’s lives. Now, she wants Congress and President Joe Biden to act.
“This bill creates an urgently needed bill of rights to ensure that every child placed into congregate care facilities is provided a safe and humane environment,” Hilton said of the Accountability for Congregate Care Act.
“This bill of rights provides protections that I wasn’t afforded, like access to education, to the outdoors, freedom from abusive treatment, and even the basic right to move and speak freely. If I had these rights and could have exercised them, I would have been saved from over 20 years of trauma and severe PTSD.”
Foster children, children being treated for mental disorders, and other children in youth programs would be impacted by the bill.
Hilton was one of several survivors and advocates who fought for the legislation on Wednesday. Rep. Khanna thanked them for using their stories to fight for change.
“No child should be subjected to solitary confinement, forced labor, or any form of institutional abuse,” he wrote. “Thanks to Paris Hilton, my colleagues & the survivors & advocates who joined us today to discuss how we can hold the congregate care industry accountable.”
While only Democratic legislators are currently sponsoring the bill, Hilton called for a bipartisan effort to fight for the rights of children.
“Ensuring that children are safe from institutional abuse isn’t a Republican or Democratic issue,” Hilton said. “It’s a basic human rights issue that requires immediate attention.”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The Hill) (NBC News)
Surgeons Successfully Test Pig Kidney Transplant on a Human
The procedure has been hailed as a major scientific breakthrough that could eventually open the door to a renewable source of desperately needed organs.
Surgeons at the NYU Langone Transplant Institute revealed Tuesday that they temporarily attached a kidney from a genetically modified pig to a human patient and found that it worked normally.
The operation was the first of its kind and could one day lead to a vast supply of organs for those who are in severe need. According to the Associated Press, more than 90,000 people in the U.S. are in line for a kidney transplant. Each day, an average of 12 die while waiting.
With the family’s consent, the groundbreaking procedure was performed on a brain-dead patient who was kept alive on a ventilator.
According to the surgeons, the pig used was genetically engineered to grow an organ that wouldn’t produce a sugar that the human immune system attacks, which would then trigger the body to reject the kidney.
The organ was connected to blood vessels on the patient’s upper leg, outside the abdomen, and it was observed for over 54 hours, with doctors finding no signs of rejection.
Concerns and Hurdles Ahead
While the procedure was successful, this doesn’t mean it’ll be available to patients anytime soon. Several questions about long-term functionality remain, and it will still have to go through significant medical and regulatory hurdles.
Details of the procedure haven’t even been peer-reviewed or published in a medical journal yet, though there are plans for this.
Experts are also considering the ethical implications of this type of animal-to-human transplant. For some, raising pigs to harvest their organs raises concerns about animal welfare and exploitation. Such medical procedures have already earned criticism from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA.
“Pigs aren’t spare parts and should never be used as such just because humans are too self-centered to donate their bodies to patients desperate for organ transplants,” PETA said in a statement, according to The New York Times.
On the other side of the debate are people like Dr. Robert Montgomery, the director of the N.Y.U. Langone Transplant Institute who performed the breakthrough procedure in September.
“I certainly understand the concern and what I would say is that currently about 40% of patients who are waiting for a transplant die before they receive one,” he told BBC.
“We use pigs as a source of food, we use pigs for medicinal uses – for valves, for medication. I think it’s not that different.”