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This blog is maintained by the Ruth Institute. It provides a place for our Circle of Experts to express themselves. This is where the scholars, experts, students and followers of the Ruth Institute engage in constructive dialogue about the issues surrounding the Sexual Revolution. We discuss public policy, social practices, legal doctrines and much more.
Posted on: Thursday, June 28, 2018
Protecting Therapists, not just Pregnancy Care Centers
by Curtis Schube
June 27, 2018
Exclusive to the Ruth Institute
NIFLA v. Becerra is better than anyone could have expected. The Supreme Court’s ruling overturned California’s onerous speech restriction on pregnancy care centers. Great news, to be sure. It gets better. NIFLA also overturned speech restrictions on therapists who assist people with unwanted same sex attraction.
Pregnancy centers encourage women to choose options other than abortion.The Court found that requiring such centers to post notices advertising abortion violates their First Amendment Free Speech rights. This is a very good result. However, few commentators have mentioned that the NIFLA ruling impacts attempts to ban so-called “conversion therapy.”
Laws which ban sexual orientation change efforts (“SOCE” for short) have increasingly entered the national conversation, most recently in California. Before California’s recent attempts to ban all forms of SOCE at any age, California already had such a law in place for minors. The law considered it “unprofessional conduct” to “seek to change sexual orientation” for a minor. Any counselor who violated the law faced professional discipline.
California’s more recent SOCE laws take an even more extreme position. These laws ban all therapy that aims to change, or even reduce, sexual attraction to the same sex. Therefore, a patient who wants SOCE therapy cannot receive that service without risk to the professional counselor.
In Pickup v. Brown, same sex attracted minors and their parents, as well as counselors who wished to provide their services, claimed that this law violates their First Amendment rights to free speech and free expression. The Ninth Circuit, in 2013, determined that counseling is not speech, but rather professional “conduct.” The “First Amendment does not prevent a state from regulating treatment,” the Ninth Circuit concluded.
The Third Circuit upheld a similar law in New Jersey using the same logic in the 2014 case, King v. Governors of New Jersey. In relying partly upon Pickup, the Third Circuit concluded that counseling is speech (rather than conduct) but classifies that speech as professional speech. The Third Circuit states that a “professional’s services stems largely from her ability to apply…specialized knowledge to a client’s individual circumstances… Thus, we conclude that a licensed professional does not enjoy the full protection of the First Amendment.”
In the NIFLA case, the Ninth Circuit had justified the requirement for pregnancy centers to advertise for abortion as “professional speech,” just like the Ninth and Third Circuits had done for SOCE laws. The Supreme Court opinion overturning the Ninth Circuit’s NIFLA opinion, specifically identified Pickup and King as examples of “professional speech” protected by the First Amendment. Writing for the majority, Justice Thomas (pictured above) stated: “Some Courts of Appeals have recognized ‘professional speech’ as a separate category of speech that is subject to different rules.” However, “speech is not unprotected merely because it is uttered by ‘professionals.’”
This is a paradigm shift in the existing precedents for SOCE bans.
Thomas seized the opportunity to provide protections to many other professions as well. “Professionals might have a host of good-faith disagreements, both with each other and with the government, on many topics in their respective fields.” He identifies doctors and nurses who disagree on the prevailing opinions on assisted suicide or medical marijuana as examples of good faith disagreements. So too are lawyers and marriage counselors who disagree on prenuptial agreements and divorces, and bankers and accountants who disagree on how to commit money to savings or tax reform. One would have to conclude that Justice Thomas’ intent is to protect all professionals from being regulated on matters of good faith disagreement.
This is a significant victory for free speech, and not only for pregnancy care centers. The “social justice” movement threatens many professionals in the exercise of their judgement and expertise. This Supreme Court ruling has created broad protections for a significant number of Americans who hold professional licenses. In doing so, the Court also reopened the seemingly settled question as to whether SOCE bans are constitutional. This is a welcome surprise from a case originally thought to be limited only to pregnancy centers.
Curtis Schube is Legal Counsel for the Pennsylvania Family Policy Institute. He is a 2009 alumnus of the Ruth Institute’s “It Takes a Family to Raise A Village” program.
Posted on: Wednesday, August 16, 2017
by Jennifer Roback Morse
The case of a Belgian woman who committed physician-assisted suicide after a sex-change operation reveals that we must not only look more closely at the causes of gender dysphoria, we must also offer all people the love that they so deeply need.
The recent physician-assisted suicide of a deeply depressed Belgian woman made worldwide headlines. But the headlines didn’t say a thing about depression. The headlines read, “Belgian killed by euthanasia after a botched sex change operation.”
This is not a story of medicine gone wrong. It is a story of a world where the light has gone out.
Everything about this headline is a euphemism or half-truth. The author couldn't figure out whether to describe the individual as a man or a woman. So, in keeping with GLAAD guidelines, the author used the gender-neutral term “Belgian,” to describe a generic person, and later describes the individual as “Nathan, born Nancy, Verhelst.” The story never tells us exactly what was “botched” about the operation, except that Nancy was unhappy with the result. And the term “euthanasia” obscures the fact that a physician killed a perfectly healthy woman who happened to have been extremely unhappy for a long time.
Let's read past the headline and consider the story more deeply.
Nancy was the daughter of a mother who wanted sons.
“I was the girl that nobody wanted. . . While my brothers were celebrated, I got a storage room above the garage as a bedroom. ‘If only you had been a boy’, my mother complained. I was tolerated, nothing more.”
Nancy’s mother confirmed Nancy’s story in this article.
“When I first saw ‘Nancy,’ my dream was shattered. She was so ugly . . . I had a ghost birth. Her death does not bother me.”
She said the farewell letter that Mr. Verhelst had written to her explaining his reasons for choosing euthanasia had not yet arrived, adding: “I will definitely read it, but it will be full of lies.
“For me, this chapter closed. Her death does not bother me. I feel no sorrow, no doubt or remorse. We never had a bond which could therefore not be broken.”
It is painfully obvious that Nancy needed love. What she got was a highly invasive set of medical procedures.
The typical justification for the amputation of perfectly healthy breasts and the prescription of powerful hormonal treatment is “gender dysphoria.” The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual describes gender dysphoria this way:
there must be a marked difference between the individual’s expressed/experienced gender and the gender others would assign him or her, and it must continue for at least six months. In children, the desire to be of the other gender must be present and verbalized. This condition causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
Looking through the DSM online, I did not find reference to the idea of trying to understand why the person experiences gender dysphoria. Nor did I find any reference to the idea of exhausting less invasive solutions to the distress or impairment before embarking on such a radical process as sexual reassignment surgery and a lifetime of hormone treatment, even on insurance company websites. One might think that an insurance company would want to know that less expensive alternatives had been attempted, before agreeing to pay for sexual reassignment surgery.
Admittedly, this online version of the DSM is for laypeople, not professionals. And also admittedly, insurance companies typically require "two referrals from qualified mental health professionals who have independently assessed the individual." But in the absence of objective criteria that would establish gender dysphoria apart from the individual's feelings, it is not clear what this very open-ended referral requirement exactly accomplishes.
The colloquial version of gender dysphoria is that the person feels “trapped in the wrong body.” But this does not apply to Nancy's case. The overriding fact of this woman's life was that her mother rejected her because she was a girl. We now know that millions of baby girls have been aborted worldwide, simply because they were girls. Nancy’s story is the slow-motion Western European equivalent. Her mother wanted a son, or at least a better-looking girl. She feels no remorse, even after her daughter’s suicide.
What exactly was “botched” about the sex change operation? I could find no allegation in the published accounts that the doctors did anything wrong or were negligent in any way. It appears that there was nothing medically abnormal about her body. The operation was “botched” only in the sense that Nancy was not satisfied with the outcome.
In the hours before his death he told Belgium's Het Laatse Nieuws: “I was ready to celebrate my new birth. But when I looked in the mirror, I was disgusted with myself.
“My new breasts did not match my expectations and my new penis had symptoms of rejection. I do not want to be . . . a monster.”
Nancy needed to be affirmed in her femininity. She had internalized her mother’s view that she was defective. Not surprisingly, her surgical attempts to correct a moral and psychological problem did not succeed. Changing her body did not resolve the problem of her mother's rejection.
Why no one saw this, I cannot say.
Dr. Paul McHugh was Psychiatrist-in-Chief at Johns Hopkins University from 1975 to 2001. During that time, he made the decision and led the department in shutting down the sexual reassignment unit. Here is what he said, years after the fact:
As for the adults who came to us claiming to have discovered their “true” sexual identity and to have heard about sex-change operations, we psychiatrists have been distracted from studying the causes and natures of their mental misdirections by preparing them for surgery and for a life in the other sex. We have wasted scientific and technical resources and damaged our professional credibility by collaborating with madness rather than trying to study, cure, and ultimately prevent it.
However you may feel about Dr McHugh's argument as a general proposition, we can say that he is absolutely correct in Nancy Verhelst's case. This particular woman was not “really” a man “trapped” in a woman's body. She was “really” a woman “trapped” in a world in which the most important person in her life did not love her.
Nancy did not need surgery. She needed her mother’s love. And short of that, she needed other people to care for her, to reach out to her in love, and assure her that she is loved by God.
The Christian community should have and could have reached out to a little girl whose mother was disgusted by her female body. Christians of all denominations need to start creating their own structures of service to those who are so wounded that they want to mutilate their own bodies or kill themselves.
More cases like Nancy’s are inevitable. Sexual reassignment surgery for any reason is already here in America. Euthanasia for any reason is coming down the pike. These trends are driven by the modern obsession with personal autonomy, uncoupled from any objective notion of the good. You don't like your body? No problem. We'll change yours to your specification. You don't want to live? No problem. We will help you die. Giving people what they say they want is becoming the sum total of our idea of helping people.
Not long ago, I gave a talk at a university titled “Healing the Family of the 21st Century.” In the question period, I laughingly said that we need a new religious order to reach out to people hurting from family problems. (Listen to this around minutes fifty-four through fifty-eight.) In that context, I was talking about the millions of people who have been wounded by the Sexual Revolution: children of divorce, reluctantly divorced or abandoned spouses, heartbroken career women.
But I'm not laughing now. We really do need a group of people whose job it is to reach out to those who need love, for whatever reason, from whatever cause. Pope Francis has recently said that he views the church as a field hospital after battle. “Heal the wounds! Heal the wounds!”
There is a town where the Christian people pride themselves on the care of the mentally ill. This town was the site of the murder of St. Dymphna by her mentally deranged father in the ninth century. Ever since, the residents of this town take mentally ill people into their homes. Coincidently, this town is in Belgium, the country that now euthanizes depressed people like Nancy Verhelst.
The modern world promises health and happiness through science. Science is supposed to deliver human control over the constraints of nature. This, in turn, will make us happy, since the free exercise of our will is supposed to be the key to human happiness.
Science did not deliver happiness to Nancy Verhelst. Science helped her to exercise her will, all right—but that was not enough.
The psychological sciences are inadequate for dealing with the existential problem of lovelessness and loneliness. The medical sciences are not the solution for a spiritual problem. We cannot save ourselves. Only God can save us. Only God's love can sustain us in loving others when all hope of love seems lost. This is precisely when the need for love is the greatest. We who have experienced this love need to be more assertive about sharing this astounding fact with others.
Posted on: Thursday, July 06, 2017
By Stoyan Zaimov
This article was published at Christian Post on May 17, 2017.
(Photo: Reuters) Children play in their kindergarten run by a private foundation which is not affected by the nursery caretakers' strike in Hanau, 30km south of Frankfurt, Germany, May 8, 2015.
An organization of teachers in the U.K. has argued that homosexuality and transgenderism should be taught to young children starting in nursery school.
Members of the National Union of Teachers group voted for a measure at a conference in Cardiff to "campaign to ensure a comprehensive age-appropriate content including promotion of LGBT+ matters for all schools from nursery throughout all phases of state education," The Evening Telegraph reported on Tuesday.
Annette Pryce, a NUT executive member from Buckinghamshire, claimed that the U.K. government hasn't been doing enough to promote inclusion.
"Those generations of young LGBT people who have been failed by the system are still not told explicitly in the law that their lives are important too," Pryce said.
"The NUT ... needs to ensure that SRE is inclusive to LGBT young people now and forever."
Education Secretary Justine Greening announced back in March that age appropriate sex and relationships guidance is to be made compulsory for all children, though it allowed parents and faith schools to opt out of the new rules.
U.K. ministers have been facing "mounting pressure" to respond to concerns that children are not being educated about online porn, cyber bullying and sexting, the Telegraph said.
Conservatives, such as Andrea Williams, chief executive at Christian Concern, have warned that teaching statutory sex education to 4-year-olds can be "devastating" and risks "robbing them of their innocence," however.
"Children [age 4] should not be introduced to this. Schools need to be safe places where the innocence of children is protected," Williams said in February.
"Very often sex education introduces children to concepts far too soon, destroying their innocence. This is not something that the state should be laying down. We are very concerned about this," she added.
Transgender issues being imposed upon children has stirred controversy in both the U.K. and the United States in recent times, with one critic calling a recently released book teaching children that men can have periods too "child abuse."
The Adventures of Toni the Tampon: A Period Coloring Book, which is being sold online on Amazon, claims that it's an "easy way to start a conversation with young kids about menstruation."
Cass Clemmer, a 2015 graduate of American University who created the Toni the Tampon character, said that Toni "is a little genderqueer tampon — kind of like me in tampon form — who just goes by Toni instead of any pronouns."
Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, founder and president of the Ruth Institute that seeks Christ-like solutions to the problems of family breakdown, told The Christian Post in March that teaching children that men and boys can have periods is both "scientific malpractice and child abuse."
"This coloring book is a solution in search of a problem. Undermining children's comfort with their own bodies is no service to anyone. Most children who experience gender dysphoria grow out of it," Morse told CP.
Posted on: Wednesday, August 03, 2016
by Jennifer Roback Morse
This article was first published at The Blaze on August 3, 2016, under the title, "Under Obama, Transgenderism Is Not Medical Condition. It’s a Political Stepping Stone."
This may seem to be a remarkable headline for a well-known social conservative.
But I must defer to the authority of the Obama administration’s Department of Justice. A careful reading of their “Dear Colleague Letter on Transgender Students,” has convinced me that the proper understanding of transgender people is not to view them as sick.
I generally like to make a thorough study of an issue that is new to me. I thought I would have to inform myself about medicine and psychology. But the DOJ’s letter, and the press release that announced it, “U.S. Departments of Justice and Education Release Joint Guidance to Help Schools Ensure the Civil Rights of Transgender Students” have convinced me that no such careful study is required. Anyone who wants to weigh in on the controversy over “bathroom bills” can do so, with no particular scientific expertise.
Gender neutral signs are posted in the 21C Museum Hotel public restrooms on May 10, 2016 in Durham, North Carolina. Debate over transgender bathroom access spreads nationwide as the U.S. Department of Justice countersues North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory from enforcing the provisions of House Bill 2 that dictate what bathrooms transgender individuals can use. (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)
By contrast, Intersex is a medically diagnosable condition. According to the Intersex Society of North America, the term “intersex” “is a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male.” The Intersex Society of North America does not advocate that intersex individuals be treated as a third gender or as having no gender. Instead, they advocate that parents of children born with these conditions work with their physicians to make a long-term, individualized plan for that particular child.
Intersex children are nowhere mentioned in the “Dear Colleague Letter.”
Gender Dysphoria is defined this way in the Fifth Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual:
Gender dysphoria refers to the distress that may accompany the incongruence between one’s experienced or expressed gender and one’s assigned gender. (pg. 51).
The term “assigned gender” is what most people would call “biological sex,” which of course, is not “assigned” at all. Rather biological sex exists from conception and is literally in every cell of the body. Biological sex reveals itself at birth for all to see.
Gender Dysphoria is nowhere mentioned in the “Dear Colleague Letter.”
The “Dear Colleague Letter” is not about the Intersex medical condition or the Gender Dysphoria psychological condition. The “Dear Colleague Letter” makes this very clear when it states on page two, under the heading Compliance with Title IX:
Under Title IX, there is no medical diagnosis or treatment requirement that students must meet as a prerequisite to being treated consistent with their gender identity.
Ah. We see that for purposes of law, children of any age can diagnose themselves as transgenders. Elsewhere, the guidelines make it clear that students may present themselves as a different sex at school without telling their parents. Students of any age can change their self-identification as they wish. The “guidelines” offer no guidance whatsoever about this possibility.
A student can suddenly decide transgender is cool, after a binge on social media. They can decide to irritate their parents. They can decide they want to fit in with the kids they meet at the LGBT after-school program. And yes, some boys can decide they want to see the inside of the girls’ locker room.
We are on one hand, meant to think that transgenders are unfortunate souls who need special attention from society in order to fit in and feel better about themselves. But on the other hand, we are told that no medical or psychological diagnosis is needed.
On one hand, we are told that the unique situation of these children requires special accommodation from the entire society. On the other hand, we are presented with a one-size-fits-all legal commandment. The federal government hands down the mandate telling each and every school district in America how they must handle the unique needs of these children.
Children with either Intersex medical conditions or Gender Dysphoria psychological conditions need more privacy and parental help. But the Department of Justice “Dear Colleague” letter will limit parental involvement and give children less privacy.
Allowing a child to define themselves into the “transgender” category without parental involvement or knowledge does accomplish one thing, though. It allows kids to become part of the political Transgender movement at the lowest possible cost. It requires the schools to become part of the ideological destabilization of the concept of innate biological sex differences.
This is why I say that transgenders are not sick. Oh, some of them may be. But some of the kids who define themselves as transgender under these guidelines will be lonely kids trying to find friends. Some will be horny and predatory. Some will be conformist to the newest ideological fad. Some will just be ornery.
Under the Obama guidelines, “transgender” is a not a medical or psychological term. “Transgender” is a political term.