Attorney General Kris Mayes tapped the leaders of progressive groups representing psychologists and pediatricians to address social media’s adverse effects on teen mental health.
The Arizona Association of School Psychologists (AASP) represented by its president, Matthew Moix; the Arizona chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) represented by its immediate past president, Jason Vargas; and social media expert Louie Bischoff were featured guests for Mayes’ town hall on Tuesday to discuss the effects of social media on teen mental health. (In her press release, Mayes referred to AASP as the Arizona School Psychologists Association [ASPA]).
The attorney general hosted the town hall meeting at Gateway Community College. During the event, Mayes entertained the potential for bringing legal action against certain social media companies.
“This is an issue that I think more and more parents are grappling with, more and more families are concerned by and are having to deal with, but it’s something I also think is appropriate for [attorney generals] to address from a legal standpoint,” said Mayes.
The AASP is the state affiliate of the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP); both have issued guidance running counter to long-held understandings on mental disorders established by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of Mental Disorders. Mental health care professionals have relied on the DSM since the early 1950s for diagnostic and treatment purposes.
As early as 2016, AASP issued a guideline on “Supporting Transgender and Gender Diverse Students at School.” AASP based their guidance on a joint letter by the Department of Justice (DOJ) Civil Rights Division and the Department of Education (ED) Office for Civil Rights guidance on the civil rights protections of transgender students, issued in the waning months of the Obama administration.
AASP and NASP declared that “neither having a transgender identity nor being perceived as gender diverse is a disorder.” It further declared that resistance to a child’s gender identity would result in lasting adverse mental health outcomes.
Following George Floyd’s death and amid the racial riots in 2020, AASP issued guidance on “Social Justice, Prejudice, and Discrimination” encouraging school psychologists to ensure diversity among personnel, incorporate social justice throughout their schools, and overhaul policies that “may passively support” negative outcomes for certain groups of students.
The AASP also has a resource page specifically for social justice matters.
Similarly, AAP opposes any bans on gender transition procedures for minors, which it referred to as “gender-affirming care.”
“Any discrimination based on gender identity or expression is damaging to the socioemotional health of children and families as evidenced by increased risk of suicide in this population,” stated the AAP.
Last month, AAP members voted to make lobbying for federal protections for minors to obtain gender transition procedures as the top priority. Other top priorities included lobbying for state constitutional ballot amendments protecting abortion rights, opposing legislation banning DEI offices and restricting DEI education in state medical schools, and banning youth-oriented gun advertising.
AAP has also supported other controversial health guidance for children.
AAP long advocated for the continued administration of COVID-19 vaccines and booster shots, despite acknowledging findings of adverse effects from the vaccination. For years, AAP also advocated for the safety and efficacy of masking as necessary for schoolchildren.
Attorney General Kris Mayes has issued another challenge to keep accessibility of the controversial abortion drug mifepristone.
In a press release issued Tuesday, Mayes announced that she’d joined an amicus brief against the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas ruling blocking the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of mifepristone. Mayes accused Texas federal judge Matthew Kacsmaryk of being an “extremist” opposing medical consensus.
“We cannot allow anti-abortion activists and an extremist judge to undo over two decades of medical consensus. Mifepristone is safe and effective and has been used by millions of Americans over the past two decades,” said Mayes.
The efficacy and safety of mifepristone remains dubious. In the ruling challenged by Mayes, Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA, Kacsmaryk noted the hundreds of known cases of infections and deaths arising from the drug’s usage. Kacsmaryk cited a 2006 hearing and report by the U.S. House Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy, and Human Resources, which noted at least 8 women’s deaths, 9 life-threatening illnesses, 232 hospitalizations, 116 blood transfusions, and 88 cases of infection; overall, over 950 adverse event cases from the drug out of 575,000 prescriptions.
Kacsmaryk also noted that the FDA took nearly 14 years to reject a petition from multiple medical professional coalitions challenging their approval of the drug. The judge further noted that, on the same day of their rejection of the petition, the FDA expanded allowed usage for the abortion drug, changed the dosage, reduced the number of required in-person office visits, allowed non-doctors to prescribe and administer the drug, and eliminated the requirement for prescribers to report non-fatal adverse events from the drug.
In the ruling, Kacsmaryk shared that there are likely far more than the known 4,200 adverse events from chemical abortion drugs due to the FDA’s rule change eliminating non-fatal adverse reporting requirements and emergency rooms miscoding over 60 percent of women’s emergency room visits for adverse abortion drug reactions as miscarriages.
What’s more, Kacsmaryk rejected the main justification for the FDA’s approval of the abortion drug: reclassifying pregnancy as a “serious or life-threatening illness” and therefore justifying mifepristone as a “meaningful therapeutic benefit.”
“Pregnancy is a normal physiological state most women experience one or more times during their childbearing years — a natural process essential to perpetuating life,” stated Kacsmaryk. “Nothing in the [FDA] Final Rule supports the interpretation that pregnancy is a serious or life-threatening illness.”
Kacsmaryk also pointed out that the FDA had neglected to apply its logic to expedited treatments for other, less politicized ailments.
“[C]ategorizing complications or negative psychological experiences arising from pregnancy as ‘illnesses’ is materially different than classifying pregnancy itself as a serious or life-threatening illness,” stated Kascmaryk. “Tellingly, [the] FDA never explains how or why a ‘condition’ would not qualify as a ‘serious or life-threatening illness.’ Suppose that a woman experiences depression because of lower back pain that inhibits her mobility. Under FDA’s reading, a new drug used to treat lower back pain — which can cause depression, just like unplanned pregnancy — could obtain accelerated approval [per the FDA’s rationale].”
The FDA approval took place during the Clinton administration. Similar to Kacsmaryk, the Governmental Accountability Office (GAO) noted in 2008 that medical professionals critical of the abortion drug’s approval questioned the reclassification of the abortion drug as warranted.
“Critics have argued that unwanted pregnancy should not be considered a serious or life-threatening illness.”
The Texas federal court ruling doesn’t impact Arizona at present; it may later on, based on pending future rulings in higher courts.
SCOTUS agreed to an application for a stay by the FDA of the Texas district court ruling, filed early last month. SCOTUS issued the stay late last month, allowing mifepristone to be made widely available while the appeals process plays out in the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
Joining Mayes in the amicus brief are the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawai’i, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia.
Last week, a Pinal County man pleaded guilty to falsely attesting to his felon status when registering to vote. It’s the latest case investigated and prosecuted by the attorney general office’s Election Integrity Unit (EIU).
35-year-old San Tan Valley resident Roberto Garcia voted in the 2020 general election, despite having six previous felony convictions. Garcia was indicted in the Pinal County Superior Court in March.
Garcia faces a minimum of six months and a maximum of 2.5 years. He will receive his sentencing on August 22 by Judge Jason Holmberg. Probation wasn’t made available.
Public court records reveal that one of Garcia’s previous felony convictions concerned theft in 2006.
Another EIU case was convicted last month. As AZ Free News reported, a Scottsdale woman voted for her dead mother in the 2020 election. The court revoked the voter registration of that woman, 56-year-old Krista Michelle Conner of Cochise County. Conner’s fraudulent ballot wasn’t counted, according to Cochise County Recorder David Stevens.
Prior to that, another Scottsdale woman that also cast a ballot in her dead mother’s name in the 2020 election — 64-year-old Tracey Kay McKee — was sentenced to two years’ probation.
Other recent convictions of voter fraud concerned several elections over the past decade. Those were 70-year-old Marcia Johnson of Lake Havasu City, who cast a ballot in her dead father’s name in 2018, and 62-year-old Joseph John Marak of Surprise, who voted as a felon six times since 2016.
The EIU was formed in 2019 and launched its online complaint form in the summer of 2020.
On Tuesday, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for requiring schools to adopt gender ideology practices in order to receive free or reduced lunch funds. About half of Arizona’s children rely on those meals.
The federal government supplements states with funds to provide free or reduced meals for low-income K-12 students. As AZ Free News reported, the Biden administration updated its Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) guidelines for its Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to clarify that protected classes within anti-discrimination policy included sexual orientation and gender identity. In the context of Biden’s correlating executive order, the guidelines would likely require schools to allow bathrooms, locker rooms, and sports teams open to gender identity.
Brnovich asserted in a press release that the Biden administration’s actions are unlawful.
“USDA Choice applies to beef at the market, not to our children’s restrooms,” said Brnovich. “This threat of the Biden administration to withhold nutritional assistance for students whose schools do not submit to its extreme agenda is unlawful and despicable.”
Arizona’s lawsuit is part of a 22-state coalition led by Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery. The remainder of the coalition includes Indiana, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia.
Altogether, the 22 states receive over $28.6 billion in SNAP benefits for over 15.4 million individuals.
The states’ complaint asserted that President Joe Biden directed federal agencies to rewrite federal law in order to align with his January 2021 executive order to “prevent and combat discrimination on the basis of gender identity.” The lawsuit further asserted that the USDA circumvented the mandatory legal process outlined in the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) to implement their new guidelines.
The states described the new guidelines as “arbitrary, capricious, [and] an abuse of discretion.” Specifically, their lawsuit alleged that the Biden administration failed to observe procedures required by law for guideline updates, misinterpreted Title IX, violated anti-commandeering and non-delegation doctrines, and violated the Constitution’s Spending Clause, First Amendment, Tenth Amendment, and separation of powers.
“To be clear, the States do not deny benefits based on a household member’s sexual orientation or gender identity. But the States do challenge the unlawful and unnecessary new obligations and liabilities that the Memoranda and Final Rule attempt to impose — obligations that apparently stretch as far as ending sex-separated living facilities and athletics and mandating the use of biologically inaccurate preferred pronouns,” read the complaint. “Collectively, the Memoranda and Final Rule inappropriately expand the law far beyond what statutory text, regulatory requirements, judicial precedent, and the U.S. Constitution permit.”
Brnovich’s decision to join the coalition lawsuit wasn’t the only action Arizona officials took in response to the USDA guidelines. Earlier this month, Congresswoman Debbie Lesko (R-AZ-08) introduced legislation to nullify the gender ideology compliance requirement.
On Monday, Attorney General Mark Brnovich issued a warning about cartels recruiting Arizona teens to traffic illegal immigrants across border.
The cartels recruit teenagers through social media ads. They promise to pay up to $2,000 for each illegal immigrant passenger they transport in vehicles, nicknamed “load cars,” to either Tucson or Phoenix.
Brnovich noted that his office has partnered with local, state, and federal agencies to prevent human smuggling in a task force known as “Operation Safe Streets.” At present, their task force averages two to ten load cars stopped a day.
Additionally, Brnovich reported thousands of smugglers coming to the border.
Load car drivers may face a slew of charges including kidnapping and unlawful fleeing.
In March, the youngest load car driver to date was arrested in Cochise County. The 14-year-old had two illegal immigrants in his car.
Earlier this month, Governor Doug Ducey petitioned the major social media companies — Twitter, Snap, Facebook, and Tik Tok — to take down “load driver” posts.
“Inaction only enables cartels to victimize countless youths and families,” wrote Ducey. “Just as your companies work to protect youth from obscenity and violence on your social media platforms, it’s time to protect them from criminal solicitation as well.”
It doesn’t appear the social media giants have taken action.