The American Medical Association announced last week that it had adopted a number of new policies, including advocacy for a federal ban on “so-called reparative or conversion therapy for sexual orientation or gender identity.”
During the AMA interim meeting held in San Diego, the group's policy-making body chose to “develop model state legislation” to ban health care providers from efforts to change sexual orientation or gender identity,” the group said in a Nov. 19 statement.
“The support for legislative bans strengthens AMA’s long-standing opposition to this unscientific practice,” the medical association said.
Dr. William Kobler, an AMA board member, said that “conversion therapy has no foundation as scientifically valid medical care and lacks credible evidence to support its efficacy or safety” and that “it is clear to the AMA that the conversion therapy needs to end in the United States given the risk of deliberate harm to LGBTQ people.”
According to the group, conversion therapy for minors has been banned by 18 states and the District of Columbia.
One of the most recent states to have adopted such as ban is Massachusetts. Its law was signed in April.
The Massachusetts Catholic Conference opposed the legislation, saying it “attempts to create a solution to a problem which does not exist,” adding that it will “deny the right of parents to engage therapists who could help their child who is experiencing gender dysphoria and is confused and uncomfortable with this experience.”
Massachusetts' law defines the banned activities as “any practice by a health care provider that attempts or purports to impose change of an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, including but not limited to efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex.”
Under the law, health care professionals will be permitted to “provide acceptance, support, and understanding” of a minor’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, to “facilitate an individual’s coping, social support and identity exploration and development”, or seek “to prevent or address unlawful conduct or unsafe sexual practices”, as long as they “do not attempt or purport to impose change of an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.”
The Massachusetts Catholic Conference said the law is unnecessary because “licensed clinical professionals are highly trained in their field and guided by ethical principles.”
It noted that minor who has “unwanted same sex attraction or gender identity, this law would prevent a licensed professional from counseling the minor towards a resolution to those unwanted urges … these professionals, with years of education and experience dealing with mental health issues, would be removed from the process of helping a young client struggling with these highly personal issues.”
The Heritage Foundation’s Ryan Anderson told CNA the Massachusetts law “imposes an ideological ban because the state disagrees with the viewpoint of certain professionals. It’s not targeted at harmful practices, but at particular values.”
A 2009 American Psychiatric Association task force recommended that the appropriate response to those with same-sex attraction involves “therapist acceptance, support, and understanding of clients … without imposing a specific sexual orientation identity outcome,” and that efforts to change orientation “involve some risk of harm.”
The APA considered homosexuality to be a mental disease until 1973. A former president of the APA said in a 2012 video interview that within the organization, political stances “override any scientific results.”
During its interim meeting, the AMA also adopted policies promoting “fully inclusive [electronic health records] for transgender patients” and encouraging “medical education accreditation bodies to both continue to encourage and periodically reassess education on health issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity in the basic science, clinical care, and cultural competency curricula.”