Fact Check: Did Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Mandate Female Athletes to Divulge Menstrual Cycle Details?
Joe Raedle/Getty Ron DeSantis
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis finds himself again mired in controversy as his state weighs a recommendation to collect data on female athletes' menstrual cycles. And while DeSantis himself didn't propose the recommendation, critics are still decrying the proposal, which they allege could be weaponized against female or transgender athletes.
The Miami Herald reports that, currently in the state, an "optional" question about menstrual cycles is included on a physical form given to female high school athletes. But a new recommendation advises mandating that female athletes answer the question — or, if not, jeopardize their participation in sports.
The AP reports that the recommendation proposes including "four mandatory questions about menstruation, including if the student has ever had a period, the age they had their first period, the date of their most recent period and how many periods they've had in the past year."
The recommendation comes from an advisory committee to the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) which, as the Associated Press reports, is a private, non-profit organization and therefore not governed by DeSantis' office.
But while the governor doesn't appoint any members of the association's board, he did handpick the education commissioner who does.
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Information about female athletes' menstrual cycles could be weaponized, critics say — used to determine if any teenaged athletes have undergone an abortion, had a miscarriage, or if some athletes are transgender.
No final decision has been made on the mandate (the recommendation will be considered by the full board during a meeting held later this month), but critics have already voiced fierce opposition, particularly as the move comes in the wake of the Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade and after DeSantis signed a bill banning transgender student athletes from participating in female sporting events at public schools.
The spokesperson for the FHSAA has denied that the proposed mandate comes in response to the transgender athlete ban, telling the AP: "There is absolutely no support of the argument that their recommendation is aimed towards addressing an individual group of people."
Not all are convinced, though. American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten took to Twitter to call the move "dystopian" and "creepy," writing: "Forcing girls to detail their menstruation to their schools, to the state, should scare everyone."
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The questions regarding athletes' menstrual cycles are, as many DeSantis supporters have noted, similar to those found on a questionnaire developed by the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American College of Sports Medicine — though that form is meant to be reviewed and signed by a physician, and used as part of a routine health screening.
Other state education departments have similar questions on their athlete forms, as DeSantis spokesperson Jeremy Redfern noted on Twitter — though those forms are meant to be filled out in conjunction with physicians.
And that, say critics, reveals a critical difference to the FHSAA's proposed form: were the questions to be mandated in Florida, the information about a teenaged athlete's menstrual cycle wouldn't be entrusted to medical professionals, but to schools themselves.
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Since making a national name for himself during the COVID-19 pandemic, DeSantis — who is widely rumored to be mulling a run for the presidency — has taken cues from Donald Trump, often by fueling culture-war conflicts similar to the former president.
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In the past and throughout the pandemic, DeSantis attempted to block local leaders' authority to issue mask mandates in municipalities throughout the state and issued an order barring local school districts from requiring students to wear masks. He has also fought cruise ship companies that sought to require their passengers be vaccinated against the virus.
Last June, DeSantis issued an executive order banning critical race theory in public schools. And perhaps most controversially, he signed into law the so-called "Don't Say Gay" bill, which prohibits Florida educators from discussing sexual orientation and gender identity subjects with students in kindergarten up to third grade.