In Its Zeal To Bash Trans Kids, Sixth Circuit Shrugs Off Constitution, Supreme Court Precedent, Dignity

On Saturday, a three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit broke cursed ground when it became the only court in the country to uphold a ban on gender-affirming treatment for minors. Because gay panic is how Republicans think they’re going to maintain their hold on power as a minority party, and if they can combine it with a bunch of bullshit handwringing about kids’ safety, so much the better!

Tennessee’s ban on puberty blockers for trans kids was set to go into effect July 1, with a 10-month grace period for children already reliant on medication to be forcibly de-transitioned or leave the state. Ignoring all evidence that forcing transgender children to live with their sex assigned at birth is associated with high risk of depression and suicidal ideation, the legislators declared that they “must take action” to deny them access to avoid children becoming “irreversibly sterile, having increased risk of disease and illness, or suffering from adverse and sometimes fatal psychological consequences.”

The “findings” in support of the law are extremely gross, accusing healthcare providers of preying on kids, posting nude photos of trans youth online to advertise their products, and likening them to purveyors of opioids. They even exploited the 2004 suicide of a Canadian man born in 1967 and raised as a girl after a botched circumcision to claim that allowing children to transition 56 years later is somehow experimental.

The statute bars healthcare providers from providing medical care “[e]nabling a minor to identify with, or live as, a purported identity inconsistent with the minor’s sex; or treating purported discomfort or distress from a discordance between the minor’s sex and asserted identity.” It allows for prosecution and lawsuits against healthcare providers, with no defense that they were providing medical care in cooperation with parents and their kids, and in accordance with accepted medical protocols.

Families of minor children requiring care sued to enjoin enforcement, and on June 28th, US District Judge Eli Richardson, a Trump appointee, issued an injunction, finding the law unconstitutional. The law clearly discriminates on the basis of sex, denying puberty blockers based on the chromosomal gender of the child, while allowing the same supposedly dangerous and untested treatments to be dispensed widely for other reasons:

Yet, the medical procedures banned by SB1 because they are purportedly unsafe to treat gender dysphoria in minors (which, as discussed above, necessarily means treatment for transgender minors) are not banned when provided to treat other conditions. Indeed, SB1 explicitly permits the very medical procedures that it bans for treatment of gender dysphoria, if those procedures are being used to “treat a minor’s congenital defect, precocious puberty, disease [excluding gender dysphoria], or physical injury.” Tenn. Code Ann. § 68-33-103(b)(1)(A). The record reflects that the same treatments received by minors for gender dysphoria are received by minors also for different conditions. (Adkins Decl. at 17–18) (explaining that cisgender girls with delayed puberty are treated with estrogen, and cisgender girls with polycystic ovarian syndrome (“PCOS”) are treated with testosterone suppression).

This trial court’s carefully reasoned 69-page opinion, allowed the ban on surgical transitions to go into effect, found that the statute violated the due process rights of parents to control their children’s medical care, and unconstitutionally discriminated on the basis of sex. The Sixth Circuit simply made shit up to reach the conclusion that it wanted in a 15-page order in which in managed to pack in several egregious lies about both facts and law.

“Parents, it is true, have a substantive due process right ‘to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children,’” they wrote, waving aside the trial court’s due process findings. “But the Supreme Court cases recognizing this right confine it to narrow fields, such as education. No Supreme Court case extends it to a general right to receive new medical or experimental drug treatments.”

In fact, parents have the right to manage their children’s medical care, with courts only interceding to force treatment in cases of life and death. Children can’t even get their ears pierced at the mall without parental sign-off, and it seems pretty doubtful that the court would have reached the same conclusion about parental rights if the state had instead mandated that all children received a covid vaccine before registering for public school.

And while the court may be technically correct with regard to “experimental treatments,” it’s simply a lie with regard to medical protocols endorsed by every major medical body in the country. Children have been taking puberty blockers for years without complication, and they certainly don’t cause irreversible sterility. That’s nonsense, although perhaps these dinguses really do believe it, since they seem to be under the impression that girls’ bodies don’t naturally produce testosterone, and boys’ bodies are estrogen-free zones.

The Act bans gender-affirming care for minors of both sexes. The ban thus applies to all minors, regardless of their biological birth with male or female sex organs. That prohibition does not prefer one sex to the detriment of the other. See Reed, 404 U.S. at 76. The Act mentions the word “sex,” true. But how could it not? That is the point of the existing hormone treatments—to help a minor transition from one gender to another. That also explains why it bans procedures that administer cross-sex hormones but not those that administer naturally occurring hormones. Tenn. Code Ann. § 68-33-103(b)(1)(A). A cisgender girl cannot transition through use of estrogen; only testosterone will do that. A cisgender boy cannot transition through use of testosterone; only estrogen will do that. The reality that the drugs’ effects correspond to sex in these understandable ways and that Tennessee regulates them does not require skeptical scrutiny.

That is not legal analysis. It’s gobbledygook, and it runs completely counter to the findings of Justice Neil Freakin’ Gorsuch in Bostock v. Clayton County, the case which held that discrimination against gay and trans people constituted discrimination on the basis of sex.

This passage as well is particularly offensive in its wholesale mischaracterization of the drug approval process:

That many members of the medical community support the plaintiffs is surely relevant. But it is not dispositive for the same reason we would not defer to a consensus among economists about the proper incentives for interpreting the impairment-of-contracts or takings clauses of the U.S. Constitution. At all events, the medical and regulatory authorities are not of one mind about using hormone therapy to treat gender dysphoria. Else, the FDA would by now have approved the use of these drugs for these purposes. That has not happened, however, giving us considerable pause about constitutionalizing an answer they have not given or, best we can tell, even finally studied.

That’s simply not how drugs are tested, as US District Judge Robert Hinkle wrote in his order that blocked a similar statute in Florida:

Obtaining FDA approval of a drug is a burdensome, expensive process. A pharmaceutical provider who wishes to market a new drug must incur the burden and expense because the drug cannot be distributed without FDA approval. Once a drug has been approved, however, the drug can be distributed not just for the approved use but for any other use as well. There ordinarily is little reason to incur the burden and expense of seeking additional FDA approval.

From a legal perspective, this order is a hot mess as well, finding that the trial judge abused his discretion when issuing a statewide injunction when only a handful of plaintiffs sued here.

“Absent a properly certified class action, why would nine residents represent seven million?” they ask, gormlessly affecting the posture of federal judges who believe that a class action is required to ban a law that is UNCONSTITUTIONAL ON ITS FACE.

Adding insult to injury, they go on to tut-tut about a rising tide of sweeping injunctions, citing to a bunch of nationwide injunctions issued by US District judges — and these two things are not the same.

In short, the whole thing is a lazy, hacky mess. Which is par for the course when it comes to Judge Amul Thapar, who signed onto the order written by Judge Jeffrey Sutton. Thapar was reportedly on the short list for Trump’s Supreme Court. (Cue the Psycho theme!)

It’s not clear whether the defendants will seek en banc review from the Sixth Circuit, or move for a stay from the Supreme Court. But this order is truly terrible and will certainly be appealed within the next 48 hours.

[L.W. v. Skrmetti, trial docket via Court Listener / L. W. v. Skrmetti, appellate docket via Court Listener]

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Louisiana Republican Considers Medical Evidence, Nixes Anti-Trans Bill. No, Really!

On Wednesday, a pretty remarkable thing happened in the Louisiana state Senate: The Republican chair of the Health and Welfare Committee, state Sen. Fred Mills, voted against moving a ban on gender-affirming healthcare for minors to the full Senate, killing the bill, at least for now. (Other Republicans are already pushing to bring the bill up for a floor vote by bypassing the committee process; more on that in a bit.) So for now at least, Louisiana is the only Southern state to to have rejected a ban on gender- affirming care. The vote gives trans kids and their families a bit of breathing room, not only in Louisiana but also in nearby states that have banned the lifesaving care that’s endorsed by every major medical and pediatric professional association in the country.

Possibly even more remarkable: Mills, a pharmacist, said he decided to vote against the bill because he had paid attention to the testimony during hearings, and had read a report the Louisiana Department of Health published in March. That report reviewed Medicaid statistics between 2017 and 2021 and found there had been exactly zero surgeries for gender reassignment performed on minors in Louisiana. What’s more, in the same period, very few Louisiana minors diagnosed with gender dysphoria — just 14.6 percent — received either puberty blockers or hormone therapy, and among those who did, the vast majority, more than 75 percent, were 15 to 17 years old. What’s more, the report found that trans minors who did receive such care had better mental health, and that there was an extremely low rate of patients who later regretted getting the treatment — about one percent, which is lower than the two or maybe four percent regret rates for breast enhancement that we found in an extremely cursory search (we ignored the stats from law firms).

So hey, Mills decided, not exactly an issue needing the state to interfere in medical decisions made by families and their doctors.

Mills told the Louisiana Illuminator — and could we please have more newspapers with 19th Century names like that? — that the report didn’t back up the wild claims made by the people wanting to ban gender-affirming care.

“My decision was really, really based on the numbers,” Mills said. “All the testimony I heard by the proponents that children are getting mutilated, I didn’t see it in the statistics.”

It was a pretty big setback for the fascist busybodies who think families and their doctors shouldn’t be allowed to decide on the health care they believe is appropriate, as indy journalist Erin Reed points out. Louisiana’s House had voted for the ban, House Bill 648, 71 to 27, which led to an intense effort by LGBTQ rights advocates to educate Louisiana senators about the medical data. Ultimately, though, Mills seems to have been most influenced by the report from the state health department, which Reed points out is in line with most reliable academic research, as well as the positions of the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Reed adds that, up to now, the Louisiana report has gotten comparatively little attention, in contrast to a seriously sketchy 2022 report that the government of Florida commissioned in support of Florida’s ban on gender-affirming care for patients on Medicaid. That Florida report claimed — against the consensus of American medical associations — that gender-affirming care is “experimental” and “harmful.”

But wait, hold the fuck on: The Florida report was politically tainted garbage full of manipulated data, and was sharply criticized in a review by several healthcare researchers (and a law prof for good measure) at Yale University:

We are alarmed that Florida’s health care agency has adopted a purportedly scientific report that so blatantly violates the basic tenets of scientific inquiry. The report makes false statements and contains glaring errors regarding science, statistical methods, and medicine. Ignoring established science and longstanding, authoritative clinical guidance, the report instead relies on biased and discredited sources, including purported “expert” reports that carry no scientific weight due to lack of expertise and bias.

So repeated and fundamental are the errors in the June 2 Report that it seems clear that the report is not a serious scientific analysis but, rather, a document crafted to serve a political agenda.

Politically skewed medical “research” from Ron DeSantis’s medical bureaucracy, which is presided over by antivaxxer quack Joseph Ladapo? Well fetch our salts.

Oh, and it gets worse, as Reed explains:

In a lawsuit aiming to reverse Florida’s Medicaid ban, the discovery process unearthed documents from the Florida Surgeon General’s Office. These papers reveal the unambiguous objective of the research: to arrive at an outcome where “care is effectively banned.”

Gee, massaging the data to force a conclusion you prefer seems to be some kind of trend in Florida’s politicized healthcare bureaucracy. Whenever DeSantis is finally gone, the entire state health apparatus will need to be de-Ladapofied.

Reed also notes the report was written by members of the rightwing “American College of Pediatricians,” a hate group whose name mimics that of the legitimate American Academy of Pediatrics, but which is explicitly anti-LGBTQ and endorses “conversion therapy” to torture the gay and trans out of people.

But back to Louisiana: The reaction of the anti-trans bigots has been swift. The state Republican Party — repeating the lie about “genital mutilation surgery” that the state report showed isn’t happening — called for the state Senate to “override the committee vote” and to put HB 648 on the floor where it can be passed by all the sensible Rs who don’t bother with facts.

If it gets that far, Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, seems likely to veto the bill, but the Rs have just enough seats in the Lege to override, even if Mills voted against. But who knows? Maybe Mills has a friend or two who also know how to read!

National anti-trans bigots have also called on the Internet Flying Monkey Hate Brigade to go after Sen. Mills, as the Illuminator illuminates:

“Fred Mills has sided with the butchers and groomers,” Matt Walsh, a conservative commentator tweeted to his nearly 2 million followers. “He will regret it. This is the biggest mistake of his political career, and also the end of his career. He’s going to be infamous and disgraced by his own base. We’ll make sure of that.”

The paper notes drily that Mills is term limited, and hasn’t said whether he’ll seek another office when his term ends. Other prominent wingnuts have been more explicit, like some asshole named Greg Price, who told his nearly 300,000 Twitter followers to “let Senator Mills know how you feel about him single-handedly killing this bill to ban sex changes for kids” and helpfully directed them to his state Senate website for his contact details. (The phone numbers appear to only be for his office, fortunately.)

The stupidest fucking response came from one Andy Ross, the president of something calling itself the “State Freedom Caucus Network,” who suggested that Mills himself must be some sort of drag performer perv, because

“This RINO Republican – Louisiana State Senator Fred Mills – once dressed in drag as a 1st grader in a TV commercial. And now he just killed the bill that would ban transgender surgeries on minors.”

Sen. Mills told the Illuminator he isn’t worrying about the rightwing backlash:

“Why should I?,” Mills said in an interview. […] “They don’t live in District 22. They don’t have a 337 area code.”

“I didn’t run for office to serve those people.”

He added,

“Always in my heart of hearts have I believed that a decision should be made by a patient and a physician. I believe in the physicians in Louisiana. […] I believe in the scope of practice. I believe in the standard of care.”

Yes, we checked, and the man really is a Republican, and has a perfect score from National Right to Life, the antiabortion group. But on this bill, he saw the research and made the rational decision. And for now, trans folks in Louisiana and their families can breathe a little sigh of relief.

[Erin in the Morning / Louisiana Illuminator / Daily Advertiser / Louisiana Department of Health / Yale doctors’ review / Erin in the Morning]

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Ron DeSantis Achieves New Dickishness Personal Worst

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has had a busy week, signing several bills that will further encrappen the state and make life miserable for LGBTQ folks, all in the hope that he’ll prove himself authoritarian enough to appeal to Republican primary voters next year. He’s been traveling across America’s Dangling Appendage signing bills restricting people’s freedom while claiming that Florida is the home of freedom, as long as you’re a rightwing evangelical. (We think we’ll just stop at “evangelical” from here on, since adding “Christian” to it just makes baby Jesus sad.)

Monday, DeSantis went to New College of Florida in Sarasota, the nice little liberal arts school he’s ruining to turn into a rightwing indoctrination center, to sign several bills aimed at purifying Florida colleges and universities of “wokeness.” It was his way of twisting the knife a bit, to remind the Liberal Elites who’s in charge. Your fascists love that kind of symbolic humiliation shit, like how a former German corporal insisted in 1940 that France surrender in the same railroad car where the 1919 Armistice was signed.

But sometimes the vanquished just won’t cooperate and admit they’ve been crushed, darn them. As Yr Wonkette noted Saturday, the official graduation speaker for New College’s commencement was Dr. Scott Atlas, Donald Trump’s Infect Everyone and Let God Sort ‘Em Out COVID adviser, which was supposed to be a sick burn on the libs. Instead of going along, New College students scheduled their own commencement for tonight, and civil rights attorney Maya Wiley will deliver the keynote speech. It’s as if those libs don’t even know they’ve been owned. Sad!

We Don’t Need No Education

As we say, DeSantis went to New College to ritually defile the corpse of his enemy, by signing bills that will further his goal of ramping up white grievance against higher education and nonexistent “liberal indoctrination.” The biggie is Senate Bill 266, which defunds and prohibits “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” (DEI) programs in higher education, because as we all know from racist memes, diversity is just code for white genocide. DeSantis kept a lid on the open racism and went for the respectable old dog whistle of “reverse racism” instead, saying,

“If you look at the way this has actually been implemented across the country, DEI is better viewed as standing for discrimination, exclusion and indoctrination. […] And that has no place in our public institutions.”

DeSantis proclaimed an end to diversity, crowing that “This bill says the whole experiment with DEI is coming to an end in the state of Florida. We are eliminating the DEI programs.”

In addition, the bill also cracks down further on academic freedom, specifying that general education classes — the core of classes for all undergrads — may not “distort significant historical events or include a curriculum that teaches identity politics,” and must not be based on

theories that systemic racism, sexism, oppression, and privilege are inherent in the institutions of the United States and were created to maintain social, political, and economic inequities.

Lasting effects of Jim Crow? Certainly not in Florida! America is perfect in Florida! A history prof could teach about redlining, presumably, as long as they don’t suggest that it created a structural imbalance in how wealth is accumulated in the US, because it’s just pure coincidence that some people inherited homes in neighborhoods that had restrictive covenants, while other people never saw such generational wealth transfer. Discrimination vanished after the Fair Housing Act in 1968, because it’s right in the name of the law, and how dare you suggest that the playing field was never level?

The bill also demands that gen ed classes of all kinds emphasize “Western Civilization,” the best civilization there is, and requires that humanities classes include works from the “Western” canon, although studying inferior books from less important cultures will be tolerated for now at least.

Other bills DeSantis signed Monday included House Bill 931, which prohibits colleges from requiring a “political loyalty test” — i.e., from committing to diversity or anything like it. It also requires that all “public policy events” include equal time for opposing views, which as far as we can tell means that if you have a Pride event you have to invite Matt Walsh.

Finally, another measure will weaken tenure protections for professors, who need to be kept in line with the threat of being fired if they get too mouthy about any of this.

‘Don’t Say Gay’ On Steroids, And Worse

To mark yesterday’s International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, which commemorates the World Health Organization’s 1990 removal of LGBTQ+ identity from its list of “mental disorders” — Jesus H Christ on a Segway, it took that long! — DeSantis signed four anti-LGBTQ measures into law, ensuring that civil rights attorneys and activists will at least have a booming business for the next few years as they work to shut that shit down. Honestly, it’s well past time that, instead of the Bugs Bunny gif, we instead force Florida back into the US of A and make it respect all its residents’ rights.

Florida’s state medical board last year adopted rules restricting gender-affirming care for trans youth. Yesterday, DeSantis made it a matter of law by signing Senate Bill 254, which prohibits puberty blockers, hormone therapy, and surgery for minors (as we always point out, gender-affirming surgery is already extremely rare for patients under 18).

As indy journalist Erin Reed notes, this one’s far worse than the usual run of such bills, because it also bans nurse practitioners from providing any gender-affirming meds, which won’t just deny care to minors but to adults, since according to Florida healthcare provider SPEKTRUM Health, up to 80 percent of gender-affirming care in Florida is provided by NPs. As Reed reports, this has already led to appointments being cancelled and people losing access to medication.

The bill became effective as soon as DeSantis signed it, and the Human Rights Campaign reports that parents who are already suing to block the state medical board’s anti-trans measures are seeking an emergency order to block SB 254 immediately. Other lawsuits are certain to follow.

DeSantis also signed what might be the most restrictive “bathroom bill” in the country, HB 1521, as Reed explains.

The wording of the bill states that if a cisgender person is in the bathroom with a transgender person, an employee can tell the transgender person to leave. Should the transgender person not leave immediately for any reason, they will be charged with criminal trespass, which can carry sentences of up to 1 year in jail. […]

While the provisions do not ban all bathroom usage, they cast a wide net over an alarming number of locations that would fall under definitions of “public” in the bill. This includes all buildings owned or leased by any governmental entity, educational institutions spanning from elementary schools to private colleges and universities, numerous hospitals owned by universities, many sports arenas, convention centers, city parks, beaches, airports, and more.

The bill makes no exceptions for trans folk who have updated their gender status on official documents like birth certificates or drivers licenses, instead defining sex as a matter of chromosomes and genitalia, which opens the hellish possibility that people trying to relieve themselves in a stall with a locked door will be subjected to freaking medical investigations. It’s also a no-win situation, as Reed notes, since

Transgender people who are androgenous or pass as their gender identity will likely be challenged in the bathroom of their birth sex. Those trans people will then be forced to undergo the same investigation into their gender. In essence, it amounts to a ban on bathrooms for transgender people entirely.

HB 1521 goes into effect on July 1 — avoiding Pride month, isn’t that cute? — by which time the lawsuits challenging it may have made headway, we hope. If it isn’t already enjoined by then, get ready for lots of pushback, too, from cisgender folks who are challenged by toilet vigilantes. Sadly, in Florida, those cases may get the most media attention, because oh no, the “wrong” people are being harmed.

DeSantis also signed HB 1069, which expands the already awful “Don’t Say Gay” law to 12th grade, and will prohibit trans students from asking to please be addressed by their correct pronouns, as well as encouraging even more vicious censorship of books in classrooms and school libraries. It too becomes effective July 1. A final member of the shitshow quartet, SB 1438, expands Florida’s “obscenity” laws to include drag shows; it’s almost certain to be used to attack Pride parades. Reed notes it has “already led to cancellations of pride events, including the Treasure Coast Pride Parade.”

All of the bills DeSantis signed this week are blatantly unconstitutional, so this might be a good time to donate, if you can, to groups like Lambda Legal, the Human Rights Campaign, or the ACLU of Florida. As the inevitable lawsuits against this fuckery ramp up, we’ll bring you more information on how to help. As Yr Wonkette likes to point out when we discuss the climate crisis, things are pretty fucked, but we have the advantage of being on the right side. Americans do not want this crap, and there’s a lot of mobilization to do — like the major federal lawsuit that’s just been launched by Florida parents, PEN America, and Random House against school library censorship, about which we’ll have more shortly.

Be an activist. Be an ally. Fight this shit with love and passion and smartassery (but don’t mistake snark for activism, you in the back, there). This humbug shall not stand, man.

[NBC News / NPR / Erin in the Morning]

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You Got Your Abortion Bill In My Trans Ban!

There was a hell of a lot of news just yesterday about the ongoing effort to make sure women, children, and some men too don’t get any silly ideas about having bodily autonomy, so let’s dig right in, with the reminder that the GOP’s drive to ban abortion everywhere is hugely unpopular with everyone except the hardcore anti-abortion folks who now dominate the Gruesome Orc Party.

North Carolina: GOP Lege Overrides Veto, Passes 12-Week Ban

The Republican supermajority in both houses of the North Carolina Legislature voted Tuesday to override Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s recent veto, passing a ban on abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy. The veto override wouldn’t have been possible in the state House without the party switch by state Rep. Tricia Cotham, who suddenly announced in April that she had decided to become a Republican. That move cemented a two-thirds GOP majority in the House, and now we’re sure Cotham is very happy with her 30 pieces of flair from GOP donors. Back in ancient times — i.e., January of this year — Cotham cosponsored a bill that would have codified abortion rights into state law, but honestly, who remembers January any more? We have a feeling that voters may remember Cotham’s switcheroo in 2024.

Yesterday’s vote means that there are now no states south of Virginia and east of New Mexico where abortion remains legal and relatively easy to obtain. Even inside the 12-week limit, abortions in North Carolina will require a 72-hour waiting period between an initial visit and the actual provision of abortion services, even for medical abortions using mifepristone, if it remains legal. Doctors must be present when patients take the pill as well. [Politico]

National: Appeals Court Hears Abortion Pill Ban Today

The federal appeals court in New Orleans is hearing oral arguments today in the unspeakably shoddy lawsuit to reverse the FDA’s 2000 approval of the abortion drug mifepristone. The lawsuit, custom made for Matthew Kacsmaryk, a Trump-appointed federal judge in Texas, should have been laughed out of court from the start because the plaintiffs have no plausible standing in the case, and because the alleged “scientific” evidence that the FDA wrongly approved the drug is crap, but then, that’s the Trump judiciary we have. The case is being heard in the notoriously rightwing Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals by a three-judge panel consisting of two Trump appointees and a GW Bush appointee, all of whom have histories of supporting abortion restrictions. One of the judges, Trump appointee James Ho, called abortion a “moral tragedy” in a 2018 opinion, and you just ignore the research showing that 99 percent of women who’ve had abortions continue to believe it was the right choice even several years later. They’ve all been brainwashed to rationalize their decision, you see.

In addition to the bullshit Texas case, the appeals court will also hear the case from Washington state that ruled the FDA can’t reverse its approval of mifepristone. That case has been combined with the one from Texas. In April, the Supreme Court issued a stay on enforcement of Kacsmaryk’s ruling, meaning that mifepristone will remain available at least until the Fifth Circuit rules in the case at some point following today’s arguments. Whatever the outcome, get ready for the entire shitshow of legal uncertainty to start all over again until the case eventually gets to the Supreme Court. [NBC News / AP]

Montana: Greg Gianforte Signs Abortion Restrictions Days After State Supreme Court Upholds Abortion Rights

In Montana Tuesday, Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte body-slammed reproductive freedom by signing four anti-abortion bills, which included a 12-week ban on all dilation and evacuation abortions after 15 weeks. Other restrictions signed by Gianforte will add new regulations on clinics and restrict Medicaid coverage for abortions.

As the Montana Free Press reports, Gianforte’s approval of the abortion restrictions came just days after the Montana Supreme Court

upheld a nearly 25-year-old legal precedent allowing abortion access under the state Constitution’s right to privacy. That case, Weems v. State, found that advanced practice nurse practitioners with proper training can provide abortions in Montana and reaffirmed that women have a fundamental right “to seek abortion care from a qualified health care provider of her choosing, absent a clear demonstration of a medically acknowledged, bona fide health risk.”

But then, what does the state supreme court know about state law anyway? Gianforte issued a statement saying he was “proud to round out our legislative session with another suite of pro-life, pro-family bills that protect the lives of unborn babies in Montana,” and if your family includes anyone who thinks they need an abortion, then clearly it’s not a real family.

The legislation is likely to face a legal challenge, what with the earlier state supreme court ruling. Also, as the Montana Free Press notes, the legislation

bars “dismemberment abortion,” a nonmedical term that the legislation defines in part as “the use or prescription of any instrument, medicine, drug, or other substance or device” to intentionally terminate pregnancies and the “insertion of grasping instruments” to remove a fetus.

The law includes exceptions for the treatment of ectopic pregnancies, and for “medical emergencies,” which of course can be a dicey determination that leads to delays of any treatment until a patient is close to death. Planned Parenthood of Montana immediately filed a motion in state court Tuesday to prevent the new law from being enforced. [Montana Free Press]

Nebraska: GOP Breaks Filibuster Of Anti-Trans Bill By Adding Abortion Ban, Because Why Not Oppress Everyone?

Finally, the GOP’s two most repulsive movements to restrict human freedom merged in Nebraska yesterday, as Republicans in the state’s unicameral Legislature sought to use a ban on abortion to break the three-month filibuster against the Republicans’ attempts to ban gender-affirming care for transgender minors. Democratic state Sens. Machaela Cavanaugh and Megan Hunt (who has a trans son, aged 12) have been absolute BOSSES in their ongoing efforts to kill the anti-trans bill, refusing to allow any legislation at all to move forward until Republicans dropped it. And it worked for months, until yesterday.

Independent reporter Erin Reed reports that in the latest attempt to move the anti-trans bill, LB 574, Republican state Sen. Ben Hansen amended the bill with a ban on abortions after 12 weeks. (Really 10 weeks, since pregnancy by statute “begins” with the the patient’s last missed period.) In addition, his amendment hands all authority on rules related to healthcare for trans youth to the state’s Chief Medical Officer, who of course was appointed by the Republican Gov. Jim Pillen. Says Reed,

While some may label this as a compromise, it feels like a more radical turn. It underlines the unsettling truth that the battles over gender-affirming care and abortion rights are not separate, but rather two faces of the same coin, driven by the same factions, using the same justifications to limit access to vital care.

The amendment technically drops the part of LB 574 that forbids puberty blockers and hormone therapy, instead only banning gender-affirming surgical procedures for anyone under the age of 19. That seems like a compromise, since the vast majority of trans people don’t seek surgery until after they’re adults anyway.

Oh, but then there’s the catch: By transferring all authority to set rules on gender affirming care to the state’s Chief Medical Officer, the amendment simply shifts the banning of puberty blockers and hormone treatment from the Lege to that appointed bureaucrat, Dr. Timothy Tesmer, who will almost certainly eliminate the treatments — and would also be free to add other restrictions that weren’t in the original version of LB 574. Sneaky, huh?

The amended bill moved forward last night in a procedural vote that broke the filibuster by a single vote.

Sen. Cavanaugh this morning gave a powerful speech evoking the words of Montana state Rep. Zooey Zephyr, condemning the dishonest tactics used by Republicans in forcing an end to the filibuster by combining two Republican obsessions, punishing women for having sex, and punishing trans people for existing:

“You literally have to cheat at every moment of this debate. In every possible way, you are cheating. […]

“Women will die. Children are dying. It is your fault. It is your fault! And you are allowing it to happen. You DO literally have blood on your hands, and if you vote for this you will have buckets and buckets of blood on your hands.”

After a final round of debate today, the combined measure is likely to pass — and then the fight to protect trans young people’s lives will shift to the courts. Sen. Hunt noted minutes ago on Twitter that she’s already getting death threats, but she’s not afraid. The more the bastards attack people’s rights to be themselves and to have autonomy over their own bodies, the more they will lose. She also eloquently pointed out that the Nebraska case makes clear once and for all that these are not separate issues (and for that matter, neither are the attacks on schools and libraries).

“Trans rights are directly tied to the greater fight for reproductive rights and bodily autonomy – we are all in this fight together, no one is siloed away from being impacted by the rollback of our collective rights.

“What’s happening in Nebraska is proof.”

Americans are not going to stand for this, and we all need to come together to protect our rights. Get ready for a long fight, and organize, organize, organize. We’ll close with a prayer from Rev. Molly Ivins, from her final column. She was talking about the Iraq War and George W. Bush, but it applies here, today, just as well; just substitute “women and trans kids” for “troops” and it’s right on target:

We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war. Raise hell. Think of something to make the ridiculous look ridiculous. Make our troops know we’re for them. […] We need people in the streets, banging pots and pans and demanding, “Stop it, now!”


[Erin in the Morning / Omaha World-Herald / Photo: Ted Eytan, Creative Commons License 2.0]

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Jay Inslee: Send Me Your Trans Kids And Women Needing Abortions, But Not Your AR-15s

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that Jay Inslee is still the governor of Washington, what with all the competence and the just generally not making a lot of waves. But damn, he and Democrats in the state Lege have done some good governing lately. This week, the state Senate passed a “shield law” to protect transgender people in Washington, including people fleeing the increasingly awful anti-trans laws in other states. It now goes to Inslee for his signature. That will make Washington the 10th state with a law or an executive order protecting people — especially trans minors and their families — who cross state lines to receive gender- affirming medical care.

But wait! There’s more! Like some other shield laws, Washington HB 1469 will also protect people who travel to Washington seeking abortion services, since it’s written to include both gender-affirming care and “reproductive health care services that are lawful in the state of Washington” under the umbrella of “protected healthcare services.” So it’s a twofer of protection against the most extreme laws being passed in other states.

As the indispensable indy journalist Erin Reed reports, the bill even goes a little further than some other states’ already good safe haven laws and EOs. Where some, like Minnesota’s executive order, authorize the governor to refuse extradition to other states that want to punish healthcare providers or parents for “aiding and abetting” the provision of gender-affirming care, HB 1469 actually prohibits Washington’s governor from cooperating with such requests. (That’s why a law is better than an EO — Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz can’t prevent future governors from acting against trans folks.) Here’s that bit from the Washington law:

The governor of this state shall not surrender any person described in subsection (1) of this section where the charge against the person is based on the provision, receipt, attempted provision or receipt, assistance in the provision or receipt, or attempted assistance in the provision or receipt of protected health care services as defined in section 2 of this act that are lawful in the state of Washington.

For instance, if someone is charged under Idaho’s stupid new “abortion trafficking” law, which prohibits anyone but parents from assisting a minor in getting abortion services, Washington will refuse to extradite Aunt Nora or her Subaru Outback.

Further, the law prohibits state agencies from cooperating with data requests from states investigating people for providing or using protected health services — even under subpoena from another state.

The day before Idaho Gov. Brad Little signed that “abortion trafficking” bill, Inslee sent Little a letter to very politely tell him what a shitty idea the law was. Inslee wrote,

I question the constitutionality of this law and I know you are aware of the costly legal challenges that await should you choose to sign this bill, but, as the governor of a neighboring state, I am also deeply concerned about the impacts that (Engrossed House Bill) 242 will have on Washington residents traveling to and from Idaho.

Inslee also warned Little against any attempt to punish Washington healthcare providers under the new Idaho law, which includes a bizarre provision allowing lawsuits for no less than $20,000 to be brought against medical providers on the behalf of an aborted fetus by a relative of said nonbaby. Inslee wrote,

But, make no mistake, Governor Little, the laws of another state that seek to punish anyone in Washington for lawful actions taken in Washington will not stand. We will protect our providers, and we will harbor and comfort your residents who seek health care services that are denied to them in Idaho.

Even before a federal judge in Texas cancel-cultured the decades-old FDA authorization of the abortion pill mifepristone, Inslee took steps to stockpile a four-year supply, a total of 40,000 doses. Inslee managed that with One Weird Trick, as the Seattle Times explains:

Inslee ordered the Department of Corrections, which has a pharmacy license, to buy 30,000 doses of mifepristone last month. UW Medicine also obtained 10,000 doses of the drug. Between the two entities, Inslee said, the state now has about a four-year supply. […]

State lawmakers introduced Senate Bill 5768 to authorize the Department of Corrections to sell or distribute the drug to licensed providers in Washington.

In a statement last week, Inslee called the Texas lawsuit “a clear and present danger to patients and providers” not only in Washington, but all across the US, saying that Washington is “a pro-choice state and no Texas judge will order us otherwise.”

Finally, over the weekend, the state Senate passed a ban on assault weapons that Inslee had pushed for; the bill had already been passed by the state House, but since the Senate added some amendments, it has to get final passage in the House before it goes to Inslee to be signed. The bill will ban the sale, manufacture, and import of assault weapons, but doesn’t ban their possession because that would be a whole ‘nother pile of lawsuits.

“Passing an assault weapon ban will be a momentous step forward for Washington state,” Inslee said. “Time and again, we’ve seen the carnage these weapons allow people to unleash on communities. Time and again, we’ve watched the NRA and politicians defend, normalize, and even celebrate these weapons. But now the time is here when the majority’s will prevails, and we put the lives of our children first.”

Inslee appeared on MSNBC’s “All In With Chris Hayes” last night to take several victory laps on abortion, trans rights, and guns, and to invite people to move to Washington. Enjoy the video!

Guest host Ali Velshi, who’s Canadian, had to get his two cents in and make a pitch for people moving to Canada, and honestly that sounds good too, especially to those of us watching from godforsaken Idaho.

[Erin in the Morning / Washington HB 1469 / Idaho Reports / Seattle Times / Jay Inslee on Substack / KIRO-TV]

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Tennessee Republicans Have Mass Shootings All Figured Out: More Guns, Everywhere, Always

Following the latest mass shooting by a responsible gun owner — the killer had no criminal record and purchased at least two of the guns legally in Nashville — Tennessee Republicans are offering the expected prayers and thoughts, although none of the thoughts include reducing the nation’s ample supply of firearms.

As Yr Wonkette noted earlier, brand new member of Congress Rep. Andy Ogles, who only won his seat thanks to Republican gerrymandering, is getting dragged a-plenty for his Christmas card demonstrating his family’s devotion to the Prince of Pieces. We’ll just add that the caption on that December 2021 image was all about the divine power of guns, and we are not making this up: “The very atmosphere of firearms anywhere and everywhere restrains evil interference — they deserve a place of honor with all that’s good.”

We aren’t sure it quite matches the meter of Mel Tormé’s “The Christmas Song,” but that’s certainly a Christmas wish! And it was so: The atmosphere of firearms anywhere and everywhere is with America not only during the Sacred Baby Season but also all year long.

While Ogles hasn’t been in Congress long enough to vote on any gun bills, in his previous job as mayor of Maury County, Tennessee, he signed a March 2020 resolution declaring the county a “sanctuary community” for the Holy Second Amendment. That doesn’t mean a damn thing at all in practical terms, but it’s a symbolic statement that if Tennessee ever passes a “red flag” law (it hasn’t), maybe the county would just let people making violent threats keep their guns. Stalkers need to defend themselves, too! And now, if Joe Biden tries to take all the guns, the guns can take refuge in Maury County, where people will presumably hide them just like Anne Frank’s family.

Ogles yesterday tweeted a brief statement saying, “My family and I are devastated by the tragedy” at the private Christian school in his district, with the usual thoughts and prayers and an assurance that he was “heartbroken by this senseless act of violence.” The replies were mostly pictures of the Christmas card, with a variety of commentary: “This you?” “We see you,” and the evergreen standby, “Fuck you.”

As it happens, then-mayor Ogles signed his 2021 gun sanctuary resolution just a day after Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced his own plan to allow all Tennesseans to carry handguns — openly or concealed — without a permit, meaning they’d no longer need to take a tyrannical safety class or pass any tyrannical criminal background check (other than the tyrannical federal one required to buy a gun). That law passed easily, and Lee signed it into law later in 2021, and now Republicans in the Tennessee Legislature are considering broadening it to allow open carry of all “firearms,” including assault rifles, instead of just handguns. Very important for the atmosphere of firearms to include people walking around on the sidewalk with AR-15s at the ready.

Lee tweeted an inspiring suggestion that Tennesseans join him in prayer, for all that’s worth.

Lee has been very busy protecting Tennessee children this session — not so much from being shot at school but from seeing drag shows and also criminalizing gender affirming healthcare for trans kids so they can be forced to go through puberty as the gender they don’t identify with, which will make them stop being trans anymore (except for how that doesn’t work). Research keeps showing that when trans and nonbinary youth receive gender-affirming medical care, the appallingly high suicide rate among trans kids can be reduced by as much as 73 percent. But as long as they ignore all the warnings, forcing unwanted puberty on trans youth probably won’t have any risks that Republicans would worry about.

As ever: If you are having thoughts of suicide or self harm, call the national Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn, who’s benefited from more than $1.3 million in total spending by the National Rifle Association over her House and Senate career, did a routine “heartbroken” tweet, thanking first responders, but without “thoughts and prayers,” possibly for the sake of avoiding cliché.

Parkland school shooting survivor David Hogg offered a thoughtful revised version for Blackburn, a sort of “War Prayer” explication of the unspoken half part of her tweet:

Let me re write that for you.

Chuck & I are heartbroken to hear about the shooting at Covenant School in Nashville that was enabled by NRA puppets like me who are willing to let kids be fucking slaughtered so long as the NRA continues giving me millions.

Singer Roseanne Cash offered her own thoughts for Blackburn. Her tweet lacked any prayers:

Don’t even. You vote against every common sense gun control bill that comes across your desk, you’ve taken over $1 million from the NRA and you rank 14th in all Congress for NRA contributions. Spare us the hand-wringing @MarshaBlackburn

Possibly the most honest reaction to the shootings came from Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tennessee), who told reporters at the US Capitol what he and fellow Republicans would do to solve gun violence: Not a damn thing, because criminals will always find a way to get guns, like walking into a firearms dealer and buying one.

“It’s a horrible, horrible situation,” Burchett said. “And we’re not gonna fix it. Criminals are gonna be criminals and my daddy fought in the second world war, fought in the Pacific, fought the Japanese.” From that, the elder Burchett’s taught his son that “if somebody wants to take you out and doesn’t mind losing their life, there’s not a heck of a lot you can do about it.”

We aren’t sure whether Burchett is depressed or just lazy, since he didn’t even invoke the mythical “good guy with a gun.” He’s certainly not going to try to stop the massacres anyway, because government and laws are useless. Quite the argument to keep him in the lawmaking business, no?

No, there’s nothing Congress can do either, don’t be silly, because criminals are unstoppable lawbreakers: “I don’t see any real role that we could do other than mess things up.” He did point out that there’s one way to end mass shootings, though:

You gotta change people’s hearts. You know, as a Christian, as we talk about in the church, and I’ve said this many times, I think we really need a Revival in this nation.

That said, Rep. Burchett has an “A+” rating from a leading anti-abortion group, because you can definitely legislate away women’s reproductive freedom without waiting around for the filthy sinning strumpets to find Jesus and mend their ways.

Oh, and as for the safety of his own children, Burchett explained that’s not a problem, since his daughter is homeschooled and will never have to worry about her safety. Rest of you people are on your own, the end.

[Daily Herald / Tennessean / NBC News / Brennan Murphy on Twitter]

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Tennessee To Only Prevent/Treat HIV/AIDS In *Nice* People, Not Those Sinners

The far Right’s panic mongering against trans people will soon have a larger body count, since apparently stochastic terrorism hasn’t killed enough people yet. In January, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) announced he would reject federal funding for HIV testing, prevention, and treatment, complaining that the federal money came with too many strings attached. By that, he meant that the grants from the US Centers for Disease control specify that the money be used for the populations most at risk for HIV: men who have sex with men, trans folks, and intravenous drug users. Lee’s announcement was especially bizarre since Tennessee is currently experiencing one of the nation’s worst HIV epidemics.

But going way back to the earliest days of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, Republicans have never liked preventing a deadly disease that affects people they think are icky, so Lee announced that instead of accepting the federal funds that have to go to those who are actually at highest risk, Tennessee would instead refocus its HIV prevention efforts on nicer people who aren’t actually at much risk, as the Washington Post reported:

State officials said they would continue to support HIV testing and prevention but would focus on first responders, victims of human trafficking, and mothers and children. In contrast, the federal program prioritizes men who have sex with men and transgender people, particularly in communities of color, who are at greatest risk of HIV, according to federal surveillance data.

Lee’s decision wasn’t simply driven by a desire to stage a 2023 revival of And the Band Played On, although we can’t guarantee he wasn’t at least a little nostalgic for the days when Ronald Reagan couldn’t bring himself to say the word “AIDS” and he and Nancy refused to even acknowledge their good friend Rock Hudson as the disease was killing him.

Nope, as NBC News reports, Lee’s administration chose to reject federal HIV funding, including grant programs begun under Donald Trump, largely in reaction to a campaign of anti-trans panic orchestrated last fall by rightwing “Christian” creep Matt Walsh and his Daily Wire boss Ben Shapiro. The two must be simply over the moon at the prospect that the funding cuts will leave more LGBTQ+ people undiagnosed and vulnerable to what’s still a dangerous but treatable disease. Like, if anyone’s there to provide the testing and treatment.

NBC News summarizes the fearmongering thusly:

A leading voice in the right’s opposition to the treatment of gender dysphoria in minors, Matt Walsh, a columnist for the conservative media outlet Daily Wire, published a series of widely read tweets on Sept. 20 targeting Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s treatment of minors at its Transgender Health Clinic. “They now castrate, sterilize, and mutilate minors as well as adults,” Walsh said.

The next day, Walsh appeared on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show to publicize his investigation, and Ben Shapiro, a conservative commentator who co-founded Daily Wire, further amplified Walsh’s attacks on Vanderbilt on his YouTube channel and podcast, decrying the “nonsense garbage that a boy can be a girl and a girl can be a boy.”

It’s bullshit, but it got Lee’s attention, and he echoed the claims, calling for a “thorough investigation” into gender-affirming care, and adding in the weird claim that “religious liberties” were somehow being crushed by the existence of trans people.

While it’s long been clear that Lee’s decision was in part prompted by the panic stirred up by Walsh’s trans-panic lies, NBC News spoke to four sources within the Tennessee Health Department who confirmed that the state government was making decisions connected to Walsh’s frothing lies about Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, Planned Parenthood, and the state’s Transgender Task Force, accusing them of all sorts of horrors.

In October, the pressure wound its way to the unit that combats HIV, sexually transmitted infections and viral hepatitis at the Tennessee Health Department.

On Oct. 24, the unit’s director, Dr. Pamela Talley, told employees that because of the social media firestorm over Vanderbilt, information about the Tennessee Transgender Task Force — a volunteer team the unit established in 2018 to focus on trans health and HIV prevention — and other trans resources had been scrubbed from the department’s website. That is according to two staffers present, who, like two of their colleagues, spoke anonymously because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

In November, staff were told that federal funding for the Transgender Task Force, and for Planned Parenthood’s HIV-prevention efforts, which mostly involved education and condom distribution, would be terminated at the end of 2022.

“There were at least three different levels of leadership on the call,” a staffer said. “It was discussed that there had been media attention around the Vanderbilt trans health clinic, which led those reporters to learn about the trans task force, and that they were funded by [the state Health Department] HIV prevention program and that all HIV prevention contracts were being reviewed.”

Then in January, Lee’s administration announced it would reject the entire $8.3 million in two grant programs from the CDC for HIV prevention, treatment, and surveillance, so that was that. $6.2 million had been allocated for statewide prevention and monitoring efforts, and another $2.1 million was specifically for Shelby County, which includes Memphis; the county has among the highest HIV infection rates in the country.

Lee’s administration claimed the state would provide an equal amount of funding, but also that the focus would shift to nice wholesome people, wink-wink nudge-nudge. As NBC reports,

Currently, the priority populations for the CDC grant for Shelby County, for example, include LGBTQ people, sex workers and those who inject drugs, are unhoused or are formerly incarcerated.

Lee’s press officer, Jade Byers, said in an email that the administration “is committed to maintaining the same level of funding, while more efficiently and effectively serving vulnerable populations, such as victims of human trafficking, mothers and children, and first responders.”

Hey, remember how Ryan White, the little kid who was infected by his hemophilia treatments, made it finally OK for powerful straight people to say maybe AIDS was a problem? This is kind of like that, except Tennessee is saying it will only help the Ryan Whites and not all those bad people.

As Greg Millett, director of public policy at The Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) pointed out, promising to help people at far lower risk is a pretty bad way to fight an epidemic.

“Tennessee is preferring to fight a fictitious epidemic rather than their very real HIV epidemic. […] First responders are just not at risk for HIV anywhere in the United States. Sexual trafficking is awful, but it’s not a major contributor for HIV cases in Tennessee or elsewhere.”

NBC News also notes that between 2016 and 2020, only one to six babies annually were born with HIV in Tennessee. So really, no need to spend millions on them.

Oh, there’s also the tiny matter of the people who actually are at risk for HIV infection, but who don’t need to be considered because they’re filthy sinners:

More than half of new diagnoses in Tennessee were in men who have sex with men in 2019, according to the state Health Department’s surveillance reports. And in 2016, the CDC released a report warning that 220 of the country’s counties, including 41 in Tennessee, were at high risk of HIV and hepatitis C outbreaks among people who inject drugs (that population accounted for 5% of new Tennessee HIV diagnoses in 2019).

And while overall HIV cases have been declining nationwide, new infection rates have been stable or increasing “in most Southern states, where the bulk of transmissions occur.” Just not among first responders, apparently.

In conclusion, we’re in hell and a lot of people are making a lot of money making things worse, the end.

[NBC News / WaPo]

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