Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) grilled President Joe Biden’s nominee for assistant secretary of health over whether the government should be allowed to override parental authority in allowing children suffering from gender dysphoria to begin taking puberty-blocking hormones or pursue irreversible surgeries to reconstruct their genitalia.
The conservative senator likened the procedures to genital mutilation, which is seen by Western society as a human rights abuse.
“Genital mutilation has been nearly universally condemned,” Paul told Levine, who is transgender. “Genital mutilation is considered particularly egregious because, as the [World Health Organization] notes, it is nearly always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children.”
“Most genital mutilation is not typically performed by force, but, as the WHO notes, by social convention — social norm,” he continued. “The social pressure to conform, to do what others do and have been doing, as well as the need to be accepted, and the fear of being rejected by the community.”
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Paul explained to Levine he’s concerned to see American culture — at least in mainstream society — beginning to normalize “the idea that minors can be given hormones to prevent their biological development of their secondary sexual characteristics.”
“Dr. Levine, you have supported both allowing minors to be given hormone blockers to prevent them from going through puberty, as well as surgical deconstruction of a minor’s genitalia,” the Kentucky lawmaker asserted. “The American College of Pediatricians reports that 80-95% of prepubertal children with gender dysphoria will experience resolution by late adolescence if not exposed to medical intervention and social affirmation.”
Sen. Paul then asked the doctor, who served as secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health from 2017 until January of this year, to answer the following question: “Do you believe minors are capable of making such a life-changing decision as changing one’s sex?”
Levine then offered a canned answer, telling the senator that “transgender medicine” is “very complex” and “nuanced,” adding that, if confirmed, “I’ll look forward to working with you and your office and coming to your office and discussing the particulars of the standards of care for transgender medicine.”
Paul proceeded to call out Levine for evading his question, asking again: “Do you support the government intervening to override the parent’s consent to give a child puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and/or amputation surgery of breasts and genitalia?”
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Photo credit: Tom Brenner/Pool via AP
“You have said you’re willing to accelerate the protocols for street kids,” he continued. “I’m alarmed that poor kids with no parents, who are homeless and distraught — you would just go through this and allow that to happen to a minor.”
For context, Levine has been offering lectures since at least 2012 on how to perform genital-altering procedures and gender conversion therapies on children. The doctor has argued kids should be given the space to determine their own sexual and gender identities, advising adults to “try not to force them one way or other,” instead allowing the minor to chart his or her own path.
Levine has also reportedly argued it’s “controversial” to require patients — including underage patients — to receive psychological evaluations and clearances before undergoing such drastic medical interventions.
In his line of questioning, Paul referenced the U.K. case of 23-year-old Keira Bell, who, experiencing gender dysphoria, received hormone therapy as a teenager and now regrets it. Bell is now taking legal action against the National Health Service, arguing she should have been challenged more thoroughly by medical personnel on her decision to undergo procedures to make her appear male.
The Republican senator said he is “alarmed” by the fact that Levine was “not willing to say absolutely minors shouldn’t be making decisions to amputate their breasts or to amputate their genitalia.”
Levine once again dodged the question.
Paul then offered these closing comments:
You’re willing to let a minor take things that prevent their puberty, and you think they get that back? You give a woman testosterone enough that she grows a beard. Do you think she’s going to go back to looking like a woman when she stops the testosterone? You have permanently changed them.
Infertility is another problem. None of these drugs have been approved for this; they’re all being used off-label. I find it ironic that the left that went nuts over hydroxychloroquine being used possibly for COVID are not alarmed that these hormones are being used off-label. There’s no long-term studies. We don’t know what happens to them. We do know that there are dozens and dozens of people who’ve been through this who regret that this happened. And a permanent change happened to them. And if you’ve ever been around children, 14-year-olds can’t make this decision.
In the gender dysphoria clinic in England, 10% of the kids are between the ages of three and 10. We should be outraged that someone’s talking to a 3-year-old about changing their sex.
The media, it should be noted, was quick to dismiss Paul’s questions and concerns by suggesting the politician is just “transphobic.”
USA Today covered the back-and-forth in an article with the headline, “Rachel Levine faces transphobia in historic U.S. Senate confirmation hearing.”
The Daily Beast described the exchange as a “transphobic rant” against Levine.
Sen. @RandPaul asks @SecretaryLevine about his concerns over allowing prepubescent minors to undergo — without parental consent — irreversible surgeries to reconstruct their genitalia, and this is how the media frames it: pic.twitter.com/puQwQD5wBq
— Tré Goins-Phillips (@tregp) February 25, 2021
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chair of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, slammed Paul for daring to ask Levine about genital mutilation and embracing hormone therapies and irreversible surgeries to reconstruct minors’ genitalia.
Murray accused Paul of making “harmful misrepresentations.”
The Washington lawmaker thanked Levine for giving Paul “thoughtful and medically informed” responses, despite the fact the doctor’s answers failed to address the conservative lawmaker’s actual questions.
“I appreciated your thoughtful and medically-informed response to Sen. Paul’s questions earlier in the hearing,” Murray said. “It is really critical to me that our nominees be treated with respect and that our questions focus on their qualifications and the work ahead of us rather than on ideological and harmful misrepresentations like those we heard from Sen. Paul earlier, and I will focus on that as chair of this committee.”