Fact Check: Trump's Iffy Grasp of Autism Research | NBC Southern California
Donald Trump's First 100 Days in Office

Donald Trump's First 100 Days in Office

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Fact Check: Trump's Iffy Grasp of Autism Research

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    President Donald Trump accompanied by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, speaks during a meeting with parents and teachers, Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington.

    President Donald Trump has weighed in on child autism, apparently without a complete grasp of the research. 

    Trump in the past has promoted debunked theories linking vaccines to autism, and shortly before his inauguration was considering a commission on the matter. Such comments have alarmed health professionals. Just last week, the American Academy of Pediatrics and dozens of other health organizations signed a letter to Trump saying claims that vaccines aren't safe "have been disproven by a robust body of medical literature," and offering to meet with him to explain that science. 

    Here is a look at his statement at a forum Tuesday and what is known about the prevalence of autism in children: 

    TRUMP: "Tremendous increases ... really a horrible thing to watch the tremendous amount of increase." 

    THE FACTS: About 1 in 68 school-aged children has autism or related disorders, a rate that has stayed about the same for two years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in March. 

    That's far more than in 2000, when the CDC estimated that about 1 in 150 children had autism. That increase is explained in large part by more awareness of the developmental disorder and changes in practice that broadened the definition for an autism diagnosis. 

    Lawmakers 'Tricked' Into Honoring Ku Klux Klansman

    [NATL] Tennessee Lawmakers 'Tricked' Into Honoring Ku Klux Klansman

    Lawmakers in Tennessee are crying foul after Republican Rep. Mike Sparks sneaked in a resolution to honor former Ku Klux Klansman Nathan Bedford Forrest with a bust under a different name. The resolution passed unanimously, 94-0, and the bust was installed at the state Capitol before lawmakers realized the mistake. 

    (Published Friday, April 28, 2017)

    Labeling also is an issue, as parents became more likely to seek out the increasing services for autism and related disorders that are available in schools and other settings. Still, the CDC says that a true increase in the number of people with autism cannot be ruled out. 

    WHY IT MATTERS: While Trump during one primary debate insisted he was "totally in favor of vaccines," he has subscribed in the past to theories unsupported by scientific evidence linking vaccines to autism. He tweeted in 2012: "Autism rates through the roof--why doesn't the Obama administration do something about doctor-inflicted autism. We lose nothing to try." In 2014: "If I were President I would push for proper vaccinations but would not allow one time massive shots that a small child cannot take - AUTISM." 

    A similar assertion in a 2015 presidential primary debate brought a rebuke from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which said it is "dangerous to public health" to suggest that vaccines are linked to autism. 

    Although Trump has not made such categorical statements about vaccines and autism as president, he met during the transition with Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a prominent critic of an ingredient sometimes used in vaccines. Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks said at the time that Trump was considering a panel on the subject. 

    UC Davis Now Sells Plan B and Condoms From a Vending Machine

    [NATL] UC Davis Now Sells Plan B, Pregnancy Tests and Condoms From a Vending Machine

    Students at the University of California, Davis, can now purchase $30 Plan B emergency contraceptives, pregnancy tests, condoms and other personal care products from a vending machine. The idea came from UC Davis senior Parteek Singh, after a friend was unable to buy emergency contraceptives in time. 

    (Published Friday, April 28, 2017)

    More broadly, those who attribute autism to vaccination seize upon any rising numbers as an argument against vaccination. That has proven worrisome to public health officials because it could divert money away from things that should be a higher priority.