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270,000 overdose deaths thrust fentanyl into heart of US presidential race

Riley Griffin, Tanaz Meghjani and Katia Dmitrieva | Bloomberg News (TNS) To understand the 2024 U.S. presidential election, it is essential to understand the politics of fentanyl. Americans have been traumatized by a years-long wave of overdose deaths caused by the synthetic opioid. Once rarely used outside hospitals, fentanyl has become a ubiquitous street drug made by criminal gangs, often in Mexico, from cheap chemicals typically manufactured in China. It frequently is a hidden ingredient in other illicit drugs and can have fatal consequences for unsuspecting users. Ending the scourge, voters indicate, is a high priority. About 8 in 10 voters in seven swing states say fentanyl misuse is a “very important” or “somewhat important” issue when deciding who to vote for in November — more than the number who cite abortion, climate change, labor and unions, or the wars in Ukraine and Gaza, according to a recent Bloomberg News/Morning Consult poll of almost 5,000 registered voters. Fentanyl has come up repeatedly in a campaign unfolding after an especially deadly phase in the U.S. opioid epidemic. From just before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in November 2019 to October 2023, about 270,000 people died of an overdose from a synthetic opioid, according to the most recent provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those fatalities account for the vast majority of overall opioid overdose deaths, which have climbed to about 80,000 a year. The crisis has received increasing attention on cable news, is the target of scores of bills in Congress and has become a rallying cry from statehouses to school-board meetings across the country. And while ideas range from ramping up treatment options to waging war on cartels, voters appear united by a desire to break fentanyl’s grip on American society. Presidential candidates are seizing on the issue to firm up support from party faithful and woo voters whose allegiances may have shifted due to the crisis. For President Joe Biden, a Democrat, and former President Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, fentanyl is also a way to talk about everything from immigration and border security to China and crime. Early in his term, Biden made addressing the epidemic the first pillar of his “Unity Agenda” intended to bring Democrats and Republicans together. Yet during this year’s State of the Union address, a gap was on display, as Biden chastised GOP lawmakers for not taking a harder stance. “Strengthen penalties on fentanyl trafficking — you don’t want to do that, huh?” he said. For his part, Trump has blamed Biden’s immigration policies for the rise in overdoses. He has called for deploying the U.S. military to Mexico and for using the death penalty as a punishment for drug smugglers. “Our country is being poisoned from within by the drugs and by all of the other crime that’s taking place,” he has said. A Republican National Committee spokesperson said Trump would “make America safe again” if reelected. Registered voters were most likely to hold U.S. drug users and Mexican cartels responsible for the epidemic, according to the Bloomberg/Morning Consult poll. Voters from both parties agree the U.S. should work with Mexico and Canada to combat drug trafficking. Drug-overdose deaths broadly are a problem across the U.S., with recent surges in places like Alaska, Washington state and Alabama. More than 4 in 10 Americans personally know someone who has died from a drug overdose, according to a study by the nonprofit Rand Corp. Just 2 milligrams of fentanyl, equivalent to 10 to 15 grains of table salt, is considered a lethal dose. Traffickers tend to distribute it by the kilogram, which is enough to kill 500,000 people, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. The drug’s street value varies — one pill can cost less than a dollar, while a pound of powder can cost well more than $10,000. Since Biden took office, the U.S. has seized more than 100 million pounds of fentanyl and 150 million fentanyl-laced pills, according to data from the DEA and the Department of Homeland Security. The White House said it has denied drug traffickers billions of dollars in profits. In Arizona — a swing state along the Mexico border that has seen a recent rise in synthetic opioid overdose deaths — fentanyl’s intersection with U.S. political divisions is plain to see. Emergency medical services in Tempe, home to Arizona State University, receive roughly two calls a day, on average, related to opioids. Wastewater surveillance shows pervasive fentanyl use in the city of roughly 186,000 people just east of Phoenix. Last year, local law enforcement said they helped seize 4.5 million fentanyl-laced pills and 140 pounds of fentanyl powder that federal officials said was being distributed by the Sinaloa drug cartel. “We used to deal with traditional drugs and traditional crises,” said Sergeant Rob Ferraro, a Tempe police officer who helped set up a program that trains cops on administering overdose antidote naloxone. In the past four years, city police have saved 330 lives with the therapy, and helped get half into treatment through a partnership with a local health organization, according to Ferraro. Yet the success of such efforts hasn’t always resonated with voters, he said. “There are different beliefs about how fentanyl is getting here. People blame Trump, they blame Biden,” Ferraro said. “It’s no different from anything else in our country: It’s very polarizing, very binary.” About one-third of swing-state voters trust neither Biden nor Trump to handle the crisis, according to the Bloomberg News/Morning Consult poll, which has a margin of error of one percentage point. Some people who have been directly affected by the crisis say that neither candidate did enough to get fentanyl under control during their time in the White House. “It’s becoming an issue in the election because it’s been ignored by both administrations,” said Jim Rauh of Akron, Ohio, who lost his 37-year-old son to fentanyl in 2015 and now runs an advocacy group called Families Against Fentanyl. “The Trump administration ignored it, the Biden administration is now turning a blind eye,” said Rauh. “They’ve both evaded their duties.” The Biden reelection campaign said the two administrations have taken drastically different approaches to navigating the epidemic. “Trump was all talk and no action on the opioid crisis, declaring an emergency and then failing to allocate additional resources or even to develop a national opioid strategy as required by law,” said spokesperson Lauren Hitt. Meanwhile, the Biden administration has focused on solutions that are popular among both Democrats and Republicans, she said. Democrats were more likely than Republicans to want to see the U.S. make overdose antidotes more available and provide treatment for opioid-use disorder. Republicans, meanwhile, wanted in greater numbers to increase security at the U.S.-Mexico border and limit migration, the Bloomberg/Morning Consult poll found. Harm-reduction strategies such as needle exchanges and efforts to decriminalize recreational fentanyl use were broadly unpopular with voters overall. Progressive cities like Portland, Oregon, and San Francisco have seen a backlash against relaxed drug laws. Oregon’s Democratic governor, Tina Kotek, has said she will sign a bill to make possession of illicit drugs a crime again, while in San Francisco, voters backed a measure sponsored by Democratic Mayor London Breed that would make welfare recipients suspected of using drugs undergo screening and enroll in a treatment program. Mentions of fentanyl on three major cable news networks began rising in 2021 and peaked in March 2023, when the networks referred to fentanyl in about 1,900 15-second clips, according to closed-captioning data from the Internet Archive’s TV News archive. Fox News referred to fentanyl about three times as often as CNN in March 2023, and about 13 times more than MSNBC, according to the Internet Archive, a nonprofit that maintains a digital library of web pages, books, videos and software. U.S. Google search interest for the term fentanyl, meanwhile, has generally surpassed interest for its broader class of drugs, opioids, since early 2022 and hit an all-time high in September of that year, according to data from Google Trends. “It’s a bigger issue than you might think,” said Chris Ager, chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party, a few days before the state’s primary election in January. “Even though we’re thousands of miles away from the southern border, where it’s coming from, everybody in New Hampshire, I believe, knows someone who’s been impacted by a fentanyl overdose.” Congress has also been paying greater attention to fentanyl. Lawmakers in the House and Senate introduced more than twice as many bills and resolutions that mentioned fentanyl in 2023 than a year earlier. State legislatures meanwhile introduced more than 600 bills about fentanyl in 2023 and enacted at least 103 laws, according to a report by the National Conference of State Legislatures. Partisan wrangling over how to address fentanyl worries some drug-policy experts, as well as immigration advocates and local officials. “When I started working on this issue, it wasn’t as politicized as it is today,” said Regina LaBelle, director of the Addiction and Public Policy Initiative at the O’Neill Institute at Georgetown University, who helped lead opioid strategy in the Biden and Obama administrations. It can be hard to get voters excited about public-health measures like prevention and treatment, she said. “It’s simpler in a sound bite to say ‘China’s killing our people’ or ‘it’s immigrants coming across the border,’” she said. Fatima Saidi, the national campaign director for We Are All America, which advocates for immigrant and refugee rights, said politicians are conflating criminals with people seeking safety. “When you’re angry, you need something to punch — and it’s the most vulnerable who are taking the punching,” she said. “Immigrants and refugees at the border should not be their punching bags.” Seeing politicians use fentanyl to push border control isn’t surprising to Lane Santa Cruz, a Democrat on the Tucson, Arizona, City Council. “We see that time and time again with the war on drugs and the oversimplification of how drugs get to the U.S.,” she said. Cruz ran for office in part because after she lost her brother to a fentanyl overdose in 2016, she wanted to protect young people in her community. She considers casting fentanyl as a border issue a fear tactic. “Blaming things on the border doesn’t address the root cause of why demand for drugs exists,” she said. In an interview steps from the White House’s West Wing, Rahul Gupta, the director of National Drug Control Policy, said Biden is focused equally on stopping traffickers and treating addiction. Those are “two sides of the same coin,” Gupta said. The death toll from the opioid crisis has been slowing but remains near all-time highs. Reported opioid overdose fatalities were down about 2.3% in the 12 months through October, according to provisional data from the CDC, and deaths from synthetic opioids like fentanyl, a subset of opioid-related deaths, were down about 0.3%. The administration continues to push to make naloxone more accessible, Gupta said, and has taken steps to ensure people with opioid-use disorder can continue to get treatment from home, as they were throughout the pandemic. The opioid epidemic, Gupta said, “is like a large ship. We’ve been able to slow it down and stop it. We have to now turn it around.” The U.S. is targeting accountants, real-estate agents, wealth managers and lawyers that enable the drug trade, Gupta added. The administration also wants to ramp up searches of vehicles crossing into the U.S. Some 90% of all interdicted fentanyl is stopped at these ports of entry, primarily in vehicles driven by U.S. citizens, according to the Department of Homeland Security. Gupta said it is difficult for officials to catch because fentanyl, which is 50 times more potent than heroin, is often moved in small quantities. Biden has blamed Trump for encouraging conservative lawmakers to hold up a bipartisan border-security bill that would install 100 inspection machines at the Southwest border and strengthen U.S. authority to sanction foreigners involved in fentanyl trafficking. “This bill would save lives and bring order to the border,” Biden said in this year’s State of the Union speech. Still, some voters in his own party are skeptical of Biden when it comes to handling the challenges posed by fentanyl. About six in 10 Democrats in swing states said they trust him more than Trump to navigate the crisis, according to the Bloomberg/Morning Consult poll. Among swing states surveyed, at least two — Nevada and Arizona — recorded an increase in overdoses from synthetic opioids in the 12-month period through October, according to the CDC, a sign that fentanyl is likely to remain a pivotal issue for voters until Election Day. Eight in 10 voters in Arizona see fentanyl as a very important or somewhat important issue when deciding who to vote for later this year, according to the Bloomberg/Morning Consult poll. They were more likely to blame U.S. drug users and Mexican drug cartels for the crisis than any other entity. More said working with Mexico and Canada to combat drug trafficking or targeting foreign synthetic drug suppliers would be effective than said so about public-health measures. Near the outset of the pandemic, Theresa Guerrero of Tucson, lost her 31-year-old son, Jacob, to a fentanyl overdose. At first, Guerrero didn’t want family or friends to know how he died. Soon, however, Guerrero said she realized that the problem was only getting worse, and threw herself into raising awareness about fentanyl. She recently appeared in a video about the drug’s toll on families for Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb, who is seeking a U.S. Senate seat by promising to bolster border security — an issue Guerrero said wasn’t important to her before Jacob died. “We are a superhighway in Arizona, with a crazy amount of pills coming through,” she said. “Our kids are not overdosing. They’re being poisoned.” With assistance from Nancy Cook and Allan James Vestal. ©2024 Bloomberg News. Visit at bloomberg.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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Thailand, Philippines embrace nuclear power to cut emissions

BANGKOK/MANILA — Thailand and the Philippines are charging ahead with plans to start nuclear reactors by the next decade as momentum grows in Southeast Asia toward the region’s first operational power plant. Thailand looks to unveil in September a national energy plan through 2037 expected to incorporate small modular reactors (SMRs). The government will look into potential sites for the reactors, which would account for 70 megawatts worth of capacity, officials say.

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Q&A: How Shakira turned pain into art on her first album in seven years, ‘Las Mujeres Ya No Lloran’

Global superstar Shakira discusses her latest album, her first full length release since 2017 and coming after the end of her marriage (Mar. 25). Photos 9 1 of 9 | This cover image released by Sony shows “Las Mujeres Ya No Lloran” by Shakira. (Sony via AP) Read More 1 of 9 This cover image released by Sony shows “Las Mujeres Ya No Lloran” by Shakira. (Sony via AP) Share Share Copy Link copied Email Facebook X Reddit LinkedIn Pinterest Flipboard Print Read More 2 of 9 | Shakira celebrates the official release of her new album, “Las Mujeres Ya No Lloran,” early Friday, March 22, 2024, in Hollywood, Fla. (AP Photo/Michael Laughlin) Read More 2 of 9 Shakira celebrates the official release of her new album, “Las Mujeres Ya No Lloran,” early Friday, March 22, 2024, in Hollywood, Fla. (AP Photo/Michael Laughlin) Share Share Copy Link copied Email Facebook X Reddit LinkedIn Pinterest Flipboard Print Read More 3 of 9 | Shakira stands for pictures during her official “Las Mujeres Ya No Lloran,” album release party and immersive experience red carpet event, late Thursday, March 21, 2024, in Hollywood, Fla. (AP Photo/Michael Laughlin) Read More 3 of 9 Shakira stands for pictures during her official “Las Mujeres Ya No Lloran,” album release party and immersive experience red carpet event, late Thursday, March 21, 2024, in Hollywood, Fla. (AP Photo/Michael Laughlin) Share Share Copy Link copied Email Facebook X Reddit LinkedIn Pinterest Flipboard Print Read More 4 of 9 | Shakira speaks to the media during her official “Las Mujeres Ya No Lloran,” album release party and immersive experience red carpet event, late Thursday, March 21, 2024, in Hollywood, Fla. (AP Photo/Michael Laughlin) Read More 4 of 9 Shakira speaks to the media during her official “Las Mujeres Ya No Lloran,” album release party and immersive experience red carpet event, late Thursday, March 21, 2024, in Hollywood, Fla. (AP Photo/Michael Laughlin) Share Share Copy Link copied Email Facebook X Reddit LinkedIn Pinterest Flipboard Print Read More 5 of 9 | Shakira celebrates the official release of her new album, “Las Mujeres Ya No Lloran,” early Friday, March 22, 2024, in Hollywood, Fla. (AP Photo/Michael Laughlin) Read More 5 of 9 Shakira celebrates the official release of her new album, “Las Mujeres Ya No Lloran,” early Friday, March 22, 2024, in Hollywood, Fla. (AP Photo/Michael Laughlin) Share Share Copy Link copied Email Facebook X Reddit LinkedIn Pinterest Flipboard Print Read More 6 of 9 | Shakira stands for pictures during her official “Las Mujeres Ya No Lloran,” album release party and immersive experience red carpet event, late Thursday, March 21, 2024, in Hollywood, Fla. (AP Photo/Michael Laughlin) Read More 6 of 9 Shakira stands for pictures during her official “Las Mujeres Ya No Lloran,” album release party and immersive experience red carpet event, late Thursday, March 21, 2024, in Hollywood, Fla. (AP Photo/Michael Laughlin) Share Share Copy Link copied Email Facebook X Reddit LinkedIn Pinterest Flipboard Print Read More 7 of 9 | Shakira stands for pictures during her official “Las Mujeres Ya No Lloran,” album release party and immersive experience red carpet event, late Thursday, March 21, 2024, in Hollywood, Fla. (AP Photo/Michael Laughlin) Read More 7 of 9 Shakira stands for pictures during her official “Las Mujeres Ya No Lloran,” album release party and immersive experience red carpet event, late Thursday, March 21, 2024, in Hollywood, Fla. (AP Photo/Michael Laughlin) Share Share Copy Link copied Email Facebook X Reddit LinkedIn Pinterest Flipboard Print Read More 8 of 9 | Shakira speaks to the media during her official “Las Mujeres Ya No Lloran” album release party and immersive experience red carpet event, late Thursday, March 21, 2024, in Hollywood, Fla. (AP Photo/Michael Laughlin) Read More 8 of 9 Shakira speaks to the media during her official “Las Mujeres Ya No Lloran” album release party and immersive experience red carpet event, late Thursday, March 21, 2024, in Hollywood, Fla. (AP Photo/Michael Laughlin) Share Share Copy Link copied Email Facebook X Reddit LinkedIn Pinterest Flipboard Print Read More 9 of 9 | People attend Shakira’s official “Las Mujeres Ya No Lloran” album release party and immersive experience red carpet event, Thursday, March 21, 2024, in Hollywood, Fla. (AP Photo/Michael Laughlin) Read More 9 of 9 People attend Shakira’s official “Las Mujeres Ya No Lloran” album release party and immersive experience red carpet event, Thursday, March 21, 2024, in Hollywood, Fla. (AP Photo/Michael Laughlin) Share Share Copy Link copied Email Facebook X Reddit LinkedIn Pinterest Flipboard Print Read More

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Police Scotland warning as housebreakings in Highlands climb to nine in a month

Police have issued a warning to people in the Highlands to ensure their homes are secure after a recent spate of break-ins in the area continued to rise. Detectives had already issued a plea to those in Badenoch and Strathspey after six housebreakings occurred in just a week. Those thefts took place between Saturday, March 2 and Monday, March 11 and included properties in Newtonmore, Kingussie and Aviemore. An investigation into the crimes was launched but on Monday Police Scotland confirmed that another three break-ins had happened. The force said three further incidents took place on Craig Na Gower Avenue in Aviemore between Tuesday, March 19 and Sunday, March 24. Items including jewellery, electronics and cash were taken from the properties. Police said they are keeping an “open mind” over whether the incidents are linked.They are urging members of the public to be vigilant and report anything out of the ordinary.Detective inspector Calum Reid said: “I would like to reassure the public that we are thoroughly investigating these incidents and are committed to finding the persons responsible. “We are keeping an open mind about whether these incidents are linked.“Help from the public is vital to our enquiries. Anyone who may have seen anything suspicious in these areas, no matter how small, should get in touch.“I would like to take this opportunity to remind people to take all precautions available to ensure that their homes are as secure as possible before leaving. “Take time to make sure all locks are working and any alarm systems or CCTV are set before leaving your home and remember to remove or store any valuables out of sight.”Anyone with information is asked to call 101 quoting 3723 of March 24. Crimestoppers can also be reached anonymously on 0800 555 111.More information on protecting properties from break-ins can be found here.

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John Moolenaar to take over House Select Committee on Chinese Communist Party

Rep. John Moolenaar will be the new chairman of the House Select Committee on Strategic Competition Between the U.S. and the Chinese Communist Party, House Speaker Mike Johnson announced Monday. Mr. Moolenaar is taking over the high-profile committee because the current chairman, GOP Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin, is quitting Congress next month. The committee works on identifying and combating any national security threats that China may pose. Mr. Johnson said Mr. Moolenaar will be “an exceptional chairman” for the committee. “His leadership experience in the private and public sectors, his academic background, and his principled service in Congress have earned John the respect of his colleagues on both sides of the aisle,” the Louisiana Republican said in a statement. Mr. Gallagher‘s unexpected departure comes as other Republican committee chairs in the House are quitting their posts. Appropriations Chairwoman Kay Granger of Texas, Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington and Financial Services Committee Chair Patrick McHenry of North Carolina also have announced their retirements. Mr. Moolenaar, Michigan Republican, thanked the speaker for the appointment. “I look forward to working with Ranking Member [Raja] Krishnamoorthi, the members of the Select Committee, House leaders, and the standing committees in the weeks and months ahead,” he said in a statement. “Together, we can help our country prepare for the challenges we face from the Chinese Communist Party and win the competition against the CCP.” Mr. Moolenaar said he was “grateful” to Mr. Gallagher for being an “incredible leader for our country as a member of the military, and as a member of Congress, where he was instrumental in creating the Select Committee.”

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Russian forces appear to torture Moscow terror suspects — electric shocks to genitals

In the grim aftermath of Friday’s devastating terror attack in Moscow, disturbing allegations have surfaced about the brutal treatment of suspects by Russian security forces. Reports suggest that detainees have experienced severe torture during interrogations. Captured footage that has spread online seemingly depicts one individual being forced to consume his own severed ear, according to The Guardian. In the same vein of ruthlessness, another detainee supposedly suffered electric shocks in a highly sensitive area — a torment that was purportedly intensified with water. The footage that provoked international alarm also allegedly displays law enforcement officials assaulting suspects with the butts of guns and kicking them as they lay on snow-covered ground. Ukrainska Pravda relayed unsettling details from images shared on the messaging app Telegram that seemingly show a suspect pantless and connected to a wire positioned to administer electric shocks to the groin. Reports from the Grey Zone Telegram Channel noted that the wire delivered up to 80 volts, purportedly as water cascaded over the individual’s head, presumably to intensify the pain. Injuries seen as suspects appear in court Subsequent appearances by the suspects in a Russian courtroom on Sunday showed several exhibiting clear physical trauma, including facial swelling and various abrasions. Among the detained was 19-year-old Mukhammadsobir Faizov, who appeared in court in a wheelchair and disoriented, attended by medical professionals. Faizov was dressed in a hospital gown, with visible lacerations on his body. Saidakrami Rachabalizoda, 30, was observed with an ear bandage, while another suspect was brought forth blindfolded, under which a pronounced black eye was evident when the blindfold was removed.

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Wyoming becomes latest state to outlaw 'gender-affirming care' for those under 18

States banning “gender-affirming care” for minors are on the verge of becoming the rule rather than the exception. Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon has signed legislation banning the use of puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and surgeries for minors seeking to change their sex, making the Cowboy State the 23rd to restrict medicalized gender transitions for those under 18. Mr. Gordon, a Republican, said he signed Senate File 99 despite his misgivings about the government superseding the rights of parents in determining medical care for their children. “I signed SF99 because I support the protections this bill includes for children, however it is my belief that the government is straying into the personal affairs of families,” Mr. Gordon said Friday in a statement. “Our legislature needs to sort out its intentions with regard to parental rights. While it inserts governmental prerogative in some places, it affirms parental rights in others.” The bill includes exceptions for children born with chromosomal abnormalities, as well as precocious puberty, a condition in which children develop sexual characteristics before age 8 or 9. Healthcare providers including physicians and pharmacists who violate the law would be subject to having their medical licenses revoked. KIDS ARE SAVED in Wyoming!!!Governor Gordon signed SF99 to put age restrictions on gender experimentation for minors.Thank you to the bill sponsor @AnthonyBouchard and others that were so outspoken on child safety. pic.twitter.com/wzV7DPPjQE — Chloe Cole ⭐️ (@ChoooCole) March 22, 2024 The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ advocacy group, argued that such bans “prevent transgender youth from accessing medically necessary, safe health care backed by decades of research and supported by every major medical association.” That stance took a hit earlier this month when Environmental Progress released internal emails from the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, the international authority, showing that its experts “frequently discuss improvising treatments as they go along.” “Members are fully aware that children and adolescents cannot comprehend the lifelong consequences of ‘gender-affirming care,’ and in some cases, due to poor health literacy, neither can their parents,” said Environmental Progress, headed by journalist Michael Shellenberger, in its March 4 press release. Terry Schilling, American Principles Project president, cheered the passage of the Wyoming law, saying that the “transgender industry’s house of cards is beginning to collapse.” He noted that the National Health Service England banned last week the use of puberty blockers for children. “We’ve seen leaks exposing the flagship group pushing sex changes for minors — the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) — as a sham medical organization,” Mr. Schilling said. “And we’re now seeing more states here in the U.S. continue to press forward in protecting kids.” WPATH released a statement last year condemning “the broad and sweeping legislation being introduced and ratified in states across the country to ban access to gender-affirming health care.” “Anti-transgender health care legislation is not about protections for children but about eliminating transgender persons on a micro and macro scale,” WPATH President Marci Bowers said in a March 2023 statement. “It is a thinly veiled attempt to enforce the notion of a gender binary.” Several state bills banning gender-transition drugs and surgeries for minors have been challenged in court. Arkansas passed the first such law in 2021, but it was struck down by a federal judge last June. The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals granted Attorney General Tim Griffin’s request in October for a hearing before the full court. In January, the Texas Supreme Court heard oral argument on a legal challenge to the state’s 2023 ban on gender-transition drugs and surgeries for minors.

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