Georgia Republicans Nearly QAnon-ed A Mental Health Bill Out Of Existence
On April 4, the state of Georgia enacted the Mental Health Parity Act, a bipartisan bill that will require insurers in the state to cover mental health and substance abuse treatment as they do physical health, and put $183 million towards mental health reform in the state.
It was not a particularly controversial bill at first, and even Republicans in the legislature understood that the state was badly in need of mental health reform — but then, as NPR reports, a paranoid conspiracy-theory contingent stepped in and got people riled up and thinking the bill "legalized pedophilia" and would somehow result in all of their children becoming transgender.
STEPHEN FOWLER, BYLINE: Only three lawmakers voted against the bill in the Statehouse, citing concerns over inclusion of language already used to define existing issues and provide care. Here's a leader of the Legislature's far-right State Freedom Caucus, Philip Singleton, who explicitly mentioned some hot-button cultural issues that has motivated Donald Trump's voters.
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PHILIP SINGLETON: Under this language, treatment for things such as gender dysphoria and pedophilia are automatically included and would therefore be required to be covered, the cost of which will be spread out amongst all Georgians.
After that, another group got involved and started making up a bunch of things that weren't even in the bill, in hopes of scaring people into opposing it.
FOWLER: From there, opposition snowballed. A nonprofit called Truth in Education put out a flier alleging that Georgia was set to enact backdoor gun control and that pedophilia would no longer be illegal but rather a health diagnosis. Dozens of mostly older citizens flooded committee hearings with signs decrying things that the bill didn't even do. At a recent Trump rally, Patrick Witt, a fringe candidate for insurance commissioner, elicited boos when he made the false claim the government would take over mental health care, guided by the World Health Organization.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
PATRICK WITT: Which — no surprise — will include gender reassignment surgery, hormone blockers for kids and potentially even therapy for pedophiles.
And it worked. The comments on the bill from people in the community reflect the way the nonsense was able to spread.
"Does this bill require that insurance cover hormones and surgery for transgender teenagers? If so, is parental consent required? (Gender Identify Dysphoria [SIC] is included in the Psychiatric manual of Mental Disorders.)" asked one commenter.
"Does this Bill mention the graphine oxide's use as wireless transmitters in the vaccines and food supply for bio medical sensors? Graphines oxides applications according to regulate and control the human body for medical and insurance fraud purposes?" asked another, who was clearly on their own trip.
"Apparently, this bill considers pedophilia a 'disorder'. Seems to me that child porn is a crime scene, not a 'disorder'. All Democrats voted for this and only 3 Republican voted against it so far. Red flag laws? These massive healthcare costs will raise insurance rates. Just another Obamacare, only much worse. Contact your congressmen immediately," said another.
Just to be clear — pedophilia is not actually illegal. Child molestation is illegal, sexual abuse is illegal, rape is illegal, statutory rape is illegal, child pornography is illegal, but pedophilia is not, because we can't actually put people in prison for thinking bad thoughts unless they act on them. It is actually extremely difficult for pedophiles who do not want to hurt children to get psychological help, either in terms of talk therapy or sex-drive-reducing medication, and this bill is highly unlikely to change that. So these people, who perhaps did not think this all the way through, can rest easy knowing that.
Literally nothing in this bill would make child molestation or child porn legal. It has nothing to do with eliminating "parental consent" for gender reassignment surgery, as that is an entirely separate issue. It certainly isn't going to make children who were not already experiencing gender dysphoria experience gender dysphoria, any more than it is going to make people who are not dealing with substance abuse issues into meth addicts. Sadly, these jerks will be able to control their children's ability to receive most medical treatment for gender dysphoria until said children turn 18 or sue them for emancipation.
It won't even force these people to receive treatment for their paranoia.
While the bill passed, it ended up being amended in ways which will likely reduce its effectiveness, which really does not bode well for the future. The fact that people can just make things up or extrapolate information not in evidence or simply yell "pedophile!" and affect the shape of a bill is highly disconcerting, as is the ease with which these people are able to find others to go along with them. People literally fought to limit their own access to mental health and substance abuse care, to the benefit of insurance companies, because they were manipulated into believing that this bill was going to "legalize pedophilia" and force all of their children to get gender affirmation surgery.
The more success they have with these tactics, the more they are going to use them, and while there will eventually be a blowback — as there always is with these things — a lot of people are going to get harmed along the way.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse