- 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)
Florida Cracks Down on “Vaccine Tourism”
- Florida is now requiring that people show proof of either full-time or part-time residency in the state in order to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
- The state has been hit with “vaccine tourism” as many people, predominantly wealthy individuals, fly to the state from other parts of the U.S. and abroad just to get the shot.
- So far, nearly 41,000 of the 1.3 million doses administered in Florida went to out-of-staters, though it is unclear if all those people were tourists or if this figure includes some part-time residents.
Florida Requires Proof of Residency
Florida is cracking down on “vaccine tourism” and requiring that people show proof of either full-time or part-time residency in the state in order to get a COVID-19 shot.
Previously the state was allowing anyone 65 and older, including non-residents, to get the vaccine. This resulted in people flying to the Sunshine State from across the U.S. and abroad just for the purpose of receiving it.
According to state data, nearly 41,000 of the 1.3 million doses Florida has administered have gone to out-of-staters. It is unclear if all these out-of-staters are tourists or if this figure includes some part-time residents.
Now, people must show a form of identification like a driver’s license or mortgage payment to receive it. Exceptions will be made for healthcare workers.
Vaccine Supply Continues to Be Limited
Wealthy people in particular were quick to schedule travel plans to Florida for this reason. According to the Wall Street Journal, there was an influx of Canadians booking private jets to Florida. Some were looking to book flights there and back on the same day, leaving just enough time for them to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, people in Florida and across the country are waiting in long lines and struggling to book appointments on glitching websites to get their shots. Vaccine supply continues to be incredibly limited and not everyone in high-risk groups have received them.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said this rule is not made to impact snowbirds, people who live in Florida during the winter to escape cold weather up north.
“They go to doctors here or whatever, that’s fine, DeSantis said, according to CNN. “What we don’t want is tourists, foreigners. We want to put seniors first, but we obviously want to put people that live here first in line.”
See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (CNN) (Travel + Leisure)
Amanda Gorman Wows the Nation With “The Hill We Climb”
- Amanda Gorman, a 22-year-old poet, impressed the nation when she read “The Hill We Climb” at President Biden’s inauguration, making her the youngest inaugural poet in the nation’s history.
- Gorman’s said the Jan. 6 attack on the nation’s Capitol inspired her to focus on a message of hope, community, and healing in her poem.
- Big names like Oprah Winfrey, Anderson Cooper, Barack Obama, and Lin-Manuel Miranda have all praised her work.
Amanda Gorman Becomes Youngest Inaugural Poet
Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman wowed the nation on Wednesday as she spoke of healing, unity, hope, and what it means to be American while reading her poem, “The Hill We Climb.”
At 22-years-old Gorman is the youngest inaugural poet in the nation’s history. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she was the youth poet laureate of Los Angeles in 2014 at the age of 16. She then became the first national youth poet laureate in 2017.
Now, her books are topping Amazon’s Best Sellers list and they are not even scheduled to be released until the fall.
First Lady Dr. Jill Biden became a fan of Gorman after watching her give a reading at the Library of Congress. She then suggested that Gorman be a part of the ceremony.
“Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true: That even as we grieved, we grew. That even as we hurt, we hoped That even as we tired, we tried,” Gorman recited during inauguration. “That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious. Not because we will never again know defeat but because we will never again sow division.”
Like President Biden, Gorman has struggled with a speech impediment and has been open about her experience overcoming it. She actually used poetry as a tool to correct it. First, she used it as a way of expressing herself without having to speak. Then she used it to bring her poems to life.
“Once I arrived at the point in my life in high school, where I said, ‘you know what? Writing my poems on the page isn’t enough for me,” she told CBS News. “I have to give them breath, and life, I have to perform them as I am.’ That was the moment that I was able to grow past my speech impediment.”
What Inspired “The Hill We Climb”
Gorman said the inaugural committee gave her freedom and flexibility when it came to choosing what to write about. She was well on her way before the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Those events then influenced her writing.
“It energized me even more to believe that much more firmly in a message of hope, community and healing. I felt like that was the type of poem that I needed to write and it was the type of poem that the country and the world needed to hear,” she told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
That message came across clearly and the insurrection was depicted in part of “The Hill We Climb.”
“It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit. It’s the past we step into and how we repair it. We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it, would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy and this effort very nearly succeeded,” she said. “But while democracy can be periodically delayed it can never be permanently defeated. In this truth, in this faith we trust. For while we have our eyes on the future history has its eyes on us.”
Nation Impressed by Gorman
“Wow…Wow, I just, wow you’re awesome,” Cooper said when closing his interview with her. “I am so transfixed.”
Lin-Manuel Miranda also cheered Gorman on. “The Hill We Climb” notably references a line of scripture that appears in a “Hamilton” song. Gorman also said she used to sing the song “Aaron Burr, Sir” to help her say her R sounds and correct her speech impediment.
“I have never been prouder to see another young woman rise!” Oprah Winfrey wrote. “Brava Brava Amanda Gorman! Maya Angelou is cheering—and so am I.”
Winfrey also gave Gorman a ring with a caged bird on it—a reference to the famous Angelou poem— which Gorman wore during the inauguration.
Actor Mark Ruffalo joined the onslaught of praise, saying that her words will lead the nation.
Former President Barack Obama echoed that idea as well, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Gorman promised to run for president one day.
See what others are saying: (CBS News) (New York Times) (Los Angeles Times)
SAT Drops Subject Tests and Optional Essay Section
- The College Board will discontinue SAT subject tests effective immediately and will scrap the optional essay section in June.
- The organization cited the coronavirus pandemic as part of the reason for accelerating these changes.
- Regarding subject tests, the College Board said the other half of the decision rested on the fact that Advanced Placement tests are now more accessible to low-income students and students of color, making subject tests unnecessary.
- It also said it plans to launch a digital version of the SAT in the near future, despite failing to implement such a plan last year after a previous announcement.
College Board Ends Subject Tests and Optional Essay
College Board announced Tuesday that it will scrap the SAT’s optional essay section, as well as subject tests.
Officials at the organization cited the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the reason for these changes, saying is has “accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to simplify our work and reduce demands on students.”
The decision was also made in part because Advanced Placement tests, which College Board also administers, are now available to more low-income students and students of color. Thus, College Board has said this makes SAT subject tests unnecessary.
While subject tests will be phased out for international students, they have been discontinued effective immediately in the U.S.
Regarding the optional essay, College Board said high school students are now able to express their writing skills in a variety of ways, a factor which has made the essay section less necessary.
With several exceptions, it will be discontinued in June.
The Board Will Implement an Online SAT Test
In its announcement, College Board also said it plans to launch a revised version of the SAT that’s aimed at making it “more flexible” and “streamlined” for students to take the test online.
In April 2020, College Board announced it would be launching a digital SAT test in the fall if schools didn’t reopen. The College Board then backtracked on its plans for a digital test in June, before many schools even decided they would remain closed.
According to College Board, technological challenges led to the decision to postpone that plan.
For now, no other details about the current plan have been released, though more are expected to be revealed in April.