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‘A return…to the dark ages’: Alabama’s controversial chemical castration bill signed into law

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A controversial chemical castration law has been signed by Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey in an attempt by the state to reduce the number of sex crimes against minors.

“This bill is a step toward protecting children in Alabama,” Ivey said in a statement to CNN. The new law dictates that individuals convicted of sex crimes involving minors under the age of 13 must begin the process of chemical castration the month prior to being released from custody. Although offenders must pay for their own chemical castration, but they cannot be denied parole for their inability to afford the procedure.

The bill defines chemical castration as “the receiving of medication, including, but not limited to, medroxyprogesterone acetate treatment or its chemical equivalent, that, among other things, reduces, inhibits or blocks the production of testosterone, hormones, or other chemicals in a person’s body.”

The law also makes it clear that individuals required to use chemical castration risk losing their freedom should they stop doing so. The language states that “a parolee released on parole under this act shall authorize the Department of Public Health to share with the Board of Pardons and Paroles all medical records relating to the parolee’s chemical castration treatment. A parolee may elect to stop receiving the treatment at any time and may not be forced to receive the treatment; provided, such refusal shall constitute a violation of his or her parole, and he or she shall be immediately remanded to the custody of the Department of Corrections for the remainder of the sentence from which he or she was paroled.”

As the Washington Post explained in an article last week, “An offender could choose to stop getting the medication and return to prison to serve the remainder of their term. Anyone who stopped receiving the castration treatment without approval would be considered guilty of a Class C felony, punishable under Alabama law by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.”

The piece added that “chemical castration’ is a misnomer, as the process leaves the testes intact, can be reversed and does not prevent a man from reproducing. It does not guarantee a man’s sexual urge will be eliminated. (There’s no consensus on whether chemical castration would be effective for women.)”

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One concern which exists is that individuals who stop the procedure could become more likely to offend as a result of heightened libido.

“I don’t think there’s any evidence that stopping medication makes people more likely to offend,” Professor Don Gruben of the University of Newcastle, the architect of an effort to create a voluntary chemical castration program in the U.K., told Psychology Today. “What sometimes happens is that people make the decision that they want to offend, and then they stop the medication to allow that to happen. Changes in testosterone take a long time, weeks or months to have an effect on things like sexual arousal and sex drive. There is some Korean work that shows that there is a rebound in testosterone, and people report a return of sexual urges and sexual thoughts. I don’t know that there was any evidence to show that was greater than it was at baseline.”

Additional concerns are that the medical procedure is a violation of human rights, because it is involuntary, and violates the constitutional ban of “cruel and unusual punishments.”

“It certainly presents serious issues about involuntary medical treatment, informed consent, the right to privacy and cruel and unusual punishment. And, it is a return, if you will, to the dark ages,” Randall Marshall, the executive director of the Alabama chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, told CNN.

“This kind of punishment for crimes is something that has been around throughout history, but as we’ve gotten more enlightened in criminal justice we’ve gotten away from this kind of retribution,” Marshall added in his statement.

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Honduran forces fire on students, 5 hurt: officials

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Honduran military police opened fire on protesting students at a university on Monday, wounding at least five, campus and hospital officials said.

Hundreds of students at the National Autonomous University of Honduras were demanding the resignation of the country's president, Juan Orlando Hernandez, after demonstrations against him intensified last week when three people were killed in protests.

"About 40 military police entered the university campus without authorization," Armando Sarmiento, director of institutional development at the Tegucigalpa-based university, told AFP.

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Health care price transparency: Fool’s gold, or real money in your pocket?

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The news is full of stories about monumental surprise hospital bills, sky-high drug prices and patients going bankrupt. The government’s approach to addressing this, via an executive order that President Trump signed June 24, 2019, is to make hospitals post their list prices online so that patients supposedly can comparison shop. But this is fool’s gold – information that doesn’t address the real question about why these prices are so high in the first place.

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2020 Election

Running while brown: How Texas’ Julián Castro is navigating white presidential politics

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By the time his plane touched down in California at the end of a whirlwind week, Julián Castro had set an early political benchmark in the crowded presidential race.

It was early April, and the former mayor and housing secretary had just released a sweeping immigration policy platform, garnering national headlines and widespread praise from immigration reform advocates who went as far as calling his proposals “exactly what we need in this moment.”

Castro was still struggling to break from the pack, but he was the first in the field with a detailed plan to tackle the one issue that could come to define the 2020 presidential campaign. Yet when he sat down for an interview on comedian Bill Maher’s television show, the host instead catalogued Castro’s proposal in terms that the white men also running for president would surely never face.

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