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WASHINGTON, DC -- Family Research Council (FRC) is disappointed that a federal judge today temporarily enjoined the newly enacted Arkansas law that protects minors from harmful, irreversible gender transition procedures, prevents taxpayer funds or medical insurance mandates from paying for them, and provides legal remedies for minors who have been permanently disfigured and/or sterilized by them. However, FRC is still hopeful that truth will prevail and the facts about harm to children from these procedures will come out. The law, called the Save Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act, was overwhelmingly approved by the Arkansas legislature, including (for the first time) overriding Governor Asa Hutchinson's veto....
As a graduate student in my early twenties, I volunteered on a suicide hotline. The calls I received while working on the hotline certainly included the suicidal person, but they also came from concerned family members, friends, and coworkers. When advising people who wanted to keep someone safe, it was essential to give them tools not only to speak with the person of concern, but to also underscore that the person they seek to help has a choice in the matter. Of course, the goal was to save lives, but we wanted to communicate to the helping party that, ultimately, they are not responsible for another person’s decision should their loved one choose to follow through with their threat of suicide.While suicide is a very serious issue, it doesn’t mean that the helper should be controlled by the threat. For example, after years of counseling with domestic violence survivors, I can recall countless stories of women who were told by an abusive spouse or partner, “if you leave me, I’ll commit suicide.” Again, suicidal thoughts and gestures should be assessed and evaluated, and underlying causes need to be properly addressed. However, tying such requests to expressions of suicide can prove to be, in some cases, controlling. That’s what I communicated to domestic violence survivors who felt demands placed on them to sacrifice their safety, and in some instances, their lives, because of the threats expressed by the person abusing them. Unfortunately, the “threat” of suicide is what is being used against responsible leaders trying to protect children from harmful and often unknown risks associated with gender transition procedures. In the wake of the news that a federal judge in Arkansas blocked that state’s Save Children from Experimentation Act (which would protect children from receiving unnecessary and invasive medical interventions aimed at treating a psychological condition characterized by confusion over one’s biological sex) from going into effect, we’ve seen a resurgence in claims of the risk of suicide, without reference or examination to a range of likely underlying and co-occurring conditions.When appealing to the judge several days ago to temporarily enjoin Arkansas’ law, Chase Strangio of the ACLU claimed: “These families, like hundreds of others across the state, are terrified . . . There has already been a spike in suicide attempts since this legislation was passed.” Court filings read: “For some transgender youth, the prospect of losing this critical medical care, even before the legislation is in effect, is unbearable . . . In the weeks after the bill passed, at least six transgender adolescents in Arkansas attempted suicide.” Within the ACLU’s claims, there is no reference to the other factors that might affect these adolescents’ decisions to attempt suicide. We are simply led to believe that legislative decisions alone are prompting suicidal thoughts in these teenagers.Similar assertions implying that this legislation will only increase the risk of suicide were sprinkled throughout other’s reports on the issue. Some involved in the case went on to argue that these medical practices “save lives” and are necessary for the transgender population that tends to be vulnerable to depression and suicide.The high suicide rate in the transgender identifying population, in fact, has been repeatedly given as the reason to support treatments that stop puberty in developing children, to start kids on a lifetime supply of the opposite-sex’s hormones, and to allow surgeries that remove healthy sexual organs. These claims are misplaced, and frankly, dangerous.That said, suicide is a real threat, and it should be addressed. The underlying causes that are leading to this threat should also be investigated so that this population can be properly treated. But, at this time, there is no evidence that suicidality abates after transgender medical procedures are performed. To the contrary, the available evidence shows a rise in completed suicides following medical interventions. Why? Clearly, the real psychological pain behind the suicidality is not being addressed by medical interventions.The problem here is that suicide should never be used as a tool, by any group, to strong-arm policymakers and the psychological and medical communities into both allowing and providing questionable practices that have somehow gained a monopoly on “standards of care” for gender dysphoria. Especially when those practices involve onboarding children, who have not fully developed physiologically, psychologically, and neurologically, to potentially irreversible and sterilizing treatments. In response, public policy makers should focus on protecting citizens, particularly vulnerable children. Further, policies that inform public health and safety should be firmly grounded in solid empirical research, such as:There is no evidence that transgender medical treatments reduce the psychological distress and mental health issues associated with gender dysphoria.There is no long-term investigation into the psychological and physiological consequences of transgender medicine performed on children.The credible and available evidence indicates:There are significant health risks to transgender medicine. Some of these include cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, & blood clots.In a 30-year longitudinal study, gender reassignment surgery patients had a 19 times higher rate of completed suicide than the general population.A few known underlying conditions that are not addressed by transgender medicine:A recent study showed 45 percent of transgender identifying persons experienced childhood sexual abuse.Higher rates of substance abuse have been found in this population by comparison to the general population.For more information on this topic, see FRC’s issue analysis.Jennifer Bauwens is Director of the Center for Family Studies at Family Research Council.
Editor’s note: This is part of an ongoing series about key provisions that states have advanced in 2021 to defend the family and human dignity.The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia was a win for Catholic Social Services (CSS). It allows them to continue serving the neediest children without compromising their religious beliefs. However, the decision was not the strong affirmation of religious liberty for which many were hoping. As noted in FRC’s blog on the opinion:The Supreme Court did the bare minimum to protect CSS and other faith adherents. It was only because Philadelphia had other exceptions, but not religious ones, that the Court found the city in violation of the First Amendment.In his concurrence, Justice Alito warned that “[t]his decision might as well be written on the dissolving paper sold in magic shops.” Whether a city with no exceptions for secular agencies can force a religious agency to violate its religious beliefs is yet to be decided by the Court. Therefore, more needs to be done to protect and affirm the religious liberty of faith-based agencies. Fortunately, several states are taking steps to do just that.Thus far, 10 states have Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Acts (CWPIAs), legislation that protects adoption and foster care providers from government discrimination based on protected beliefs about the nature of marriage and family. “Government discrimination” can come in many forms. Strong CWPIAs list as many of these forms as possible, with some of the most common being:Denying a license, permit, or other authorization, or the renewal thereof, or revoking/suspending such license, permit, or other authorization.Denying a grant, contract, or participation in a government program.Denying the agency’s application for funding or refusing to renew the agency’s funding.Ideally, the beliefs protected will also be clearly defined (i.e. the religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is between one man and one woman), although this has been less common in the CWPIAs introduced thus far. Many of these bills also include a strengthening provision—a civil cause of action for agencies whose rights have been violated by the government. Some bills also specifically protect child welfare agencies from being subject to civil fines or damages for acting in accordance with their beliefs.Since 2010, 49 CWPIAs have been introduced in 19 states. Ten states have enacted these bills in some form—Alabama, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. The first was introduced and enacted in Virginia in 2012, and the most recent was enacted in Tennessee in 2020.In 2021, four CWPIAs have been introduced in four states—Iowa (HF 170), Kentucky (HB 524), South Carolina (HB 3878), and Massachusetts (H. 1536).Iowa HF 170 is unique in that it clearly defines the protected beliefs child welfare agencies may hold. Among these are the beliefs that “Marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman” and that “The terms ‘male’ and ‘female’ refer to distinct and immutable biological sexes that are determinable by anatomy and genetics by the time of birth.”Oklahoma resolutions HJR 1059 (2016) and HJR 1023 (2017) read similarly to Iowa’s bill, as they specifically protect child welfare agency’s “beliefs or the lawful expression of those beliefs, including sincerely held religious beliefs regarding marriage, family, or sexuality.” Most CWPIAs specifically protect the right of adoption and foster agencies (many of which have a religious mission) to decline certain placements if doing so would violate a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction. However, spelling out which beliefs warrant protection adds an extra layer of clarity for these agencies.One important thing to note: Half of the bills introduced after 2010 have only protected agencies’ “written” beliefs contained in a policy or organizing document. Some bills even include a requirement that these beliefs be written and available to be viewed. This can exclude some agencies from protection if their sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions about marriage are not spelled out in a written policy or on the agency’s website. Therefore, CWPIAs are stronger when they don’t make this stipulation and instead protect all sincerely held religious beliefs to have protection. For example, South Carolina HB 3878 (2021) prohibits government discrimination against an agency for providing or declining to provide “any adoption or foster care service. . . based on or in a manner consistent with a sincerely-held religious belief or moral conviction.”Contrary to what is often said by the media, CWPIAs do not stop same-sex couples from becoming adoptive or foster parents, nor do they limit the pool of potential foster and adoptive parents. The majority of child welfare agencies in the United States are willing to place children with same-sex couples. Most faith-based agencies, such as Catholic Social Services in Philadelphia, will help these couples find other agencies willing to assist them.Forcing welfare agencies to either violate their beliefs, close their doors, or serve in a more limited capacity is detrimental to the children these agencies serve. Allowing faith-based agencies to operate alongside non-faith-based ones ensures that more children in need will receive care, not fewer. Recognizing this fact, 10 states have already enacted CWPIAs into law. Given the number of lawsuits seeking to force foster and adoption agencies to act in ways contrary to their beliefs, other states would be wise to get ahead of the problem and follow suit.
Editor’s note: This is part of an ongoing series about key provisions that states have advanced in 2021 to defend the family and human dignity.While many states have enacted pro-life laws in recent years, the abortion industry has been searching for ways to circumvent such laws. The best way to do this, it has determined, is through risky, do-it-yourself chemical abortions, which leave mothers to endure the trauma of abortion alone in their bathrooms, with no support or medical follow-up.Twenty years ago, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved mifepristone (Mifeprex®; also known as RU-486 or simply “the abortion pill”) to chemically induce abortions. Since then, the abortion industry has latched on to the abortion pill as a lower-cost alternative to surgical abortions—and one that can be carried out virtually anywhere. As a result, abortion pill usage has surged even as the overall number of abortions in the United States is in decline. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the use of early “medical abortions” (a euphemistic term for chemical abortions) increased 114 percent from 2006 to 2015. And according to statistics provided by the Guttmacher Institute, 39 percent of abortions in 2017 were chemical, a 25 percent increase since 2014.Chemical abortion is praised by pro-abortion activists for expanding abortion availability, particularly for women who don’t live near an abortion business since they push mothers to self-administer the drugs at home. These activists choose to overlook chemical abortion’s higher rate of risk compared to surgical abortion and push for the removal of the FDA’s safety standards, arguing they are unnecessary and unduly limit “abortion access.” The abortion industry seems willing to gamble with women’s lives and health.The good news is that many states are not. Since 2011, 74 bills to ban or place regulations on chemical abortion have been introduced in 29 states. Of these bills, 21 have been enacted in 14 states. These bills vary in approach. Some seek to ban chemical abortion outright, while others seek to regulate chemical abortions in an effort to mitigate its health-damaging and life-threatening risks to mothers. Bills typically include some combination of the following key provisions:Require that the pre-abortion exam be performed, and the abortion pills be administered, in-person by a licensed physician. (These laws are often referred to as “Skype abortion” bans, since without them abortionists can abuse telehealth to dispense chemical abortion drugs without ever physically examining the mother.)Require that physicians meet certain certification and qualification standards, including:Being certified by an “Abortion Inducing Drug Certification Program” at the state board of pharmacy.Being capable of performing an in-person exam to confirm the pregnancy, the absence of an ectopic pregnancy and determine the gestational age and intrauterine location of the unborn child, as well as document said information in the patient’s medical chart.Require follow-up appointments (minimum of two).Require patients to be informed of the “final printed label” (FPL) of each drug.Require informed consent for mothers.Require reporting of Adverse Event Complications and reporting to the state board of pharmacy.Provide a penalty for noncompliance (criminal, civil, and/or professional).Create a civil cause of action (i.e., abortion providers who violate the law can be sued).In 2021 so far, a record-high 22 bills have been introduced and seven enacted in six states. Here is a rundown of the seven bills enacted so far this year:Alabama HB 377 banned chemical abortions completely and imposed a criminal penalty for noncompliance. Specifically, it prohibits any person or entity from manufacturing, distributing, prescribing, dispensing, selling, or transferring the abortion pill or any substantially similar generic or non-generic abortifacient drug in the state. This is the strongest measure to be enacted this year.Oklahoma SB 778 also requires the person administering the abortifacient drug to be a licensed physician, establishes informed consent and reporting requirements (i.e., number of chemical abortions), codifies criminal, professional, and civil penalties for noncompliance, and creates a civil cause of action for the mother, father, and maternal grandparents of the unborn child if these rules are not adhered to. This bill also prohibits the distribution of abortifacient drugs in schools or on other state grounds.Oklahoma SB 779 additionally requires the person administering the abortifacient drug to be a licensed physician but adds that this physician must have admitting privileges at a local hospital. This bill also establishes the Oklahoma Abortion-Inducing Drug Certification Program, which requires manufacturers, distributors, and physicians to be certified to manufacture, distribute, or provide abortifacient drugs, and establishes requirements for certification. This bill also requires the physician to schedule a follow-up appointment, establishes informed consent requirements, creates a reporting system, establishes criminal penalties for noncompliance, and creates a civil cause of action for the mother of the unborn child. This bill, together with SB 778, puts strong regulations in place, ensuring proper safety precautions are taken and enforced.Montana HB 171 requires that abortifacients be administered in-person by a “qualified medical practitioner” and prohibits the drug from being provided through a courier, delivery, or mail service, which targets the “mail-order abortion” model that the abortion industry is moving toward. It also requires the physician to perform an in-person exam of the mother prior to administering the drug to verify that a pregnancy exists, determine the mother’s blood type (since being Rh negative could cause complications), and establish the gestational age and intrauterine location of the unborn child. This bill also provides informed consent requirements, reporting requirements, civil and criminal penalties for noncompliance, a civil cause of action, and requires the physician to schedule a follow-up appointment. In addition, the bill also prohibits anyone from providing an abortifacient drug at a school or on school grounds.Arkansas HB 1402 requires persons administering abortifacients to be licensed physicians, credentialed to manage abortion complications, or have an agreement with an associated physician who is credentialed to handle abortion complications. The bill also requires the physician to perform an in-person exam of the mother prior to administering the abortion pill in order to verify that an intrauterine pregnancy exists, determine the mother’s blood type, and establish the gestational age of the child. This bill additionally requires the physician to schedule a follow-up appointment (making all reasonable efforts to ensure that the mother returns) and prohibits the distribution of abortifacient drugs via a courier, delivery, or mail service. It did not establish any new penalties.Ohio SB 260 requires physicians to be physically present when abortifacients are administered and requires the physician to perform an in-person exam prior to administering the drug. It also mandates a 24-hour waiting period before the administration of abortifacients and imposes criminal penalties for noncompliance.Arizona SB 1457 places leaner regulations on chemical abortion. It requires that abortifacient drugs only be provided by a qualified physician (elsewhere defined in law) and prohibits a manufacturer, supplier, physician, or any other person from providing an abortifacient drug via a courier, delivery, or mail service. This bill doesn’t establish regulations as robust as the others, above. However, to the bill’s credit, it establishes strong abortion regulations in other areas not related to chemical abortion, such as prohibiting an abortion solely based on a diagnosis of a genetic abnormality of the unborn child.No other year has seen so many bills to regulate or ban chemical abortion introduced, let alone enacted. State legislators are seeing the lack of restraint and regulation of chemical abortions and taking action to establish necessary safeguards. All Americans should agree that the abortion industry should not be allowed to operate at the expense of the health and safety of mothers. States are sending a clear message that they will not stand idly by and allow abortion businesses like Planned Parenthood to profit from the cheaper but riskier abortion pill regimen. Given the dramatic increase of chemical abortions over the past few years, more states are sure to respond with their own legislative efforts to reign in this growing sector of the abortion industry.For more information on chemical abortions and why safety restrictions are necessary for the sake of women’s health, please refer to FRC’s issue analysis.
On June 28, California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced that California will add five more states to its travel ban. State-funded travel will no longer be permitted to states on this list because they passed bills that California considers “discriminatory.”The number of states on California’s anti-travel list has been growing over the years and has now reached a total of 17, with this new addition of Florida, Arkansas, Montana, North Dakota, and West Virginia. The ban will have an impact on public school trips, universities, teacher conferences, and any other business that public employees of the state of California may need to attend around the country.Bonta justified the additions to the travel ban by claiming the moral high ground. “The states [banned] are a part of a recent, dangerous wave of discriminatory new bills signed into law in states across the country that directly work to ban transgender youth from playing sports, block access to life-saving care, or otherwise limit the rights of members of the LGBTQ community,” Bonta’s office explained in a press release. However, these laws are necessary to (1) preserve fair competition in women’s sports by requiring that athletes who identify as transgender participate in sports according to their biological sex, and (2) to prevent youth from making drastic, permanent life-altering decisions (like taking puberty blocking drugs) until they reach adulthood, such as Arkansas’ SAFE Act.The first travel ban from California was introduced in 2017. Then-Attorney General Xavier Becerra signed into law Assembly Bill 1887, which prohibited a state agency, department, board, or commission from requiring any state employees, officers, or members to travel to a state that has so-called “discriminatory” laws against gender identity, expression, or sexual orientation. The first state it applied to was Oklahoma.Oklahoma had signed into law Senate Bill 1140, which allowed private foster care/adoption agencies to use their own discretion when placing children into homes. For religious organizations, it meant that they could continue to place children only into families with a mother and a father. Neither adoption nor foster care by those identifying as LGBTQ is banned in Oklahoma; the bill simply upholds that private organizations are allowed to operate in accordance with their beliefs. However, according to advocates of the LGBTQ cause, SB 1140 discriminated against those identifying as LGBTQ. Allie Shin, the External Affairs Director of ACLU Oklahoma, stated that “Rather than stand up to religious fanaticism, the Governor has chosen to reinforce the delusions of those who confuse discrimination with liberty.” Shortly after, California enacted AB1887.However, Becerra didn’t stop at just Oklahoma. Over the course of the next several years, he signed laws prohibiting state-funded travel to Texas, Alabama, Idaho, Iowa, South Carolina, South Dakota, Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee. All of these states have passed laws similar to Oklahoma’s or that fall under the category of LGBTQ issues.Blocking state-funded travel to a third of the country comes with consequential economic impacts. Lisa Hermes, the CEO of the Chamber of Commerce in McKinney, Texas, said that “the state could lose out on as much as $1 billion dollars of economic impact if the NCAA canceled its events currently slated to take place in Texas — such as the 2024 College Football Playoff National Championship game set for Houston and the 2023 Women’s Final Four in Dallas.” In Louisville, Kentucky, the city lost over $2 million in revenue after two companies canceled events they were going to hold there. Even Nashville, which is a left-leaning city, was impacted after the American Counseling Association canceled a meeting they had scheduled, which would have brought 3,000 visitors to the state (and business to hotels and restaurants to boot) and would have brought in $4 million worth of tax revenue.While these new bans by California are obviously more harmful than helpful, they are also a dangerous example of the level that the Left will stoop to in order to make a large statement. It’s hard to argue against the fact that by shutting down state-funded travel to 17 states, California’s stances on issues like transgenderism are getting lots of attention. This travel ban is one of many ways that the Left is forcing culture to align with their agenda. There’s also issues like the MLB moving its All-Star Game out of Georgia because of pressure from the Left.With all of this happening in the culture around us, what is our role as Christians and conservatives? The Left is following through on what they say they’re going to do, and it’s having an economic impact. How should we respond? We need to follow through on our beliefs as well and use God’s word as the basis for our decisions and actions. As Christians, we need to firmly take a stand not just with our words, but with our actions by using our hard-earned money to make an economic impact for biblical values just as the Left is making an economic impact with their policies. As believers, we can do this by supporting companies and organizations that align with our biblical values.Gabby Wiggins is a Brand Advancement intern at Family Research Council.Damon Sidur is a Communications intern at Family Research Council.
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