TODAY IN FLORIDA...
Florida Suddenly Realized That Tracking Girls' Periods Is Really F*cking Creepy
Florida High School Athletic Association votes against form questions about children's menstrual cycles.
It’s a day that ends in a Y and you know what that means: time for another absurd story out of Florida! In a delightful twist (head’s up, there are several twists in this story), this one goes, all things considered, pretty well. Last week, the Florida High School Athletic Association sparked controversy when they began weighing in on a recommendation from an advisory committee that would make questions about teenage athletes’ menstrual cycles mandatory in order to participate. Here’s what you need to know...
The proposal included four mandatory questions about menstruation.
The recommendation would make the following information for “females only” mandatory for participation in school sports:
- When was your first menstrual period?
- When was your most recent menstrual period?
- How much time do you usually have from the start of one period to the start of another?
- How many periods have you had in the last year?
Twist! Florida and many other states have actually been asking these questions for years.
It’s true! For about 20 years now in Florida, the Associated Press reports. However, in the past, these questions have been optional.
BUT ALSO HOWEVER, Outsports reports that most other states ask questions pertaining to menstrual health on their own forms, including states with some of the most nationally progressive policies on both abortion and trans-athletes (more on how that’s relevant in a bit). Moreover, making these questions mandatory is in keeping with national guidelines for sports physicals developed by the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American College of Sports Medicine and other professional groups, which describe questions about menstrual history and health as an “essential discussion for female athletes” that can affect their overall wellness and fitness to participate in sports. (Female athletes with irregular periods are more susceptible to stress fractures.)
“OMG,” you may be thinking to yourself, “So this was all a big misunderstanding!”
Or, less charitably...
“So Florida has been on the up and up this whole time and this kerfuffle is just a Liberal snowflake twisting of facts!”
Concerns are as much about what’s done with the questions as the questions themselves.
Now, if you ever did sports in high school, you’re probably familiar with needing a form from your doctor saying you’re healthy enough to play. This usually includes a detailed physical, which could include information about your menstrual cycle, and a form that states whether the student is cleared to play sports and if there are any relevant recommendations, diagnoses, or precautions that schools and coaches should be aware of. (If the student has asthma, for example.) Florida is no exception here.
Where they are exceptional is in the treatment of the forms. Usually, the paper form that details a students’ medical history is kept on file at their doctor’s office — schools only ever receive the form clearing them or not clearing them to play. Florida schools, will require these forms digitally through a third-party company called Aktivate. Not only does this mean schools have access to students’ medical information, but because schools and sports programs are not required to keep health information private in accordance with federal HIPAA laws, this move would open up the records to subpoena. This practice runs afoul of AAP recommendations regarding these forms, which emphasizes private conversations with children, parents, and their doctors.
Trans and reproductive rights were at the heart of many objections.
The context of this proposal also matters: Florida has been a national leader in anti-choice, anti-trans, and generally deeply conservative legislation in the past few years, gleefully spearheaded by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
It’s understandable, therefore, that this could be seen as a way to exclude trans athletes from participation in sports, or as a way to obtain evidence of pregnancy or abortion.
“This is a trial balloon. If it works in Florida, the republicans will implement this in other states,” hypothesizes Twitter user @CaptainZeeroh. “Why? Because this dovetails SO well with their abortion laws….if they are tracking periods, how long before they use that as ‘evidence’ that someone traveled for an abortion?”
While there’s no direct evidence that this is or would be the case, or the reason for the new “mandatory” status of the questions. Additionally, the governor was not involved in the proposal to make menstrual health questions mandatory. That said, given the state government’s recent propensity to set new legal precedents and legislation to promote unapologetically conservative agenda, especially in regard to potentially banning trans athletes from sports (something, again, DeSantis and his supporters in the Florida legislature have been openly promoting for some time now) and prosecute abortion (ditto), it’s understandable that people would be worried.
The proposed change was opposed by the FHSAA 14 to 2.
The proposal created national blowback for the FHSAA, and perhaps as a result they declined to vote on making questions regarding menstrual cycles mandatory. The form will still contain questions about mental health, family health history, and drug and alcohol use, but the answers will stay in the offices of the healthcare practitioners who conduct the students’ medical — Florida schools will follow the example of other states and only retain the form declaring a student’s medical eligibility to participate in sports.
There was one change that was made to the form, however, that touches upon the concerns some had regarding questions about menstruation: the state form now asks for a student’s “sex assigned at birth” rather than simply asking for “sex” as previous forms put it.