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Florida Asking Student Athletes About Their Periods Raises Red Flags Post-Roe

Seen from behind, a girl concentrates on a soccer ball in the air in front of her.

It’s pretty standard for student athletes to have to fill out medical questionnaires and/or get a physical exam before being cleared for sports activity. But the questionnaire being given to students in Florida raising a lot of well-deserved criticism.

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In addition to the regular questions about allergies, asthma, chronic illness, and other medical issues, the form—which was obtained by a number of local news outlets—also includes five questions specifically for “females only” that ask about their menstruation history. They ask about things like the student’s first period, the typical length of their periods, and the time between periods.

These questions (which are marked “optional”) are not necessarily unusual for this sort of form and Florida schools have been asking them for 20 years. The problem stems from the state’s recent move to storing the forms digitally, meaning they’re hosted by a third party. Additionally, according to The Palm Beach Post, “all of that medical data is then turned over to the athlete’s school, contrary to other states that require only the physician’s signature page to clear them to play.”

In our post-Roe v. Wade reality—and especially in a red state like Florida with an aggressively anti-abortion legislature—this is exactly the sort of scenario that raises red flags. Sharing this medical information with schools (which are typically not constrained by HIPPA privacy rules) is bad enough, but hosting them on a third party brings up even more valid privacy concerns. According to The Florida Times-Union, the app in question (Aktivate) says it doesn’t sell or share student information, but it is subject to subpoena and government enforcement proceedings.

We have already seen how this sort of information can be used by law enforcement to investigate potential miscarriages or abortions. That’s not something students should have to risk just to play sports. There are also concerns that this information could be used to target trans student athletes but hopefully the “optional” nature of the questions offers some protections against that possibility.

“If they’re forcing the issue then I would call it anti-trans,” one endocrinologist who works with trans youth told the Times-Union. “That’s probably the better question: Why do they have the questions in the first place?”the questionnaire being given to students in Florida raising a lot of well-deserved criticism.

That is, in fact, a very good question.

(image: Rhett Lewis on Unsplash)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.

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