Earlier this week, the United States Senate had a contentious confirmation hearing for Xavier Becerra who President Biden has nominated for Secretary of Health at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Today, the Senate held another combative hearing for Dr. Rachel Levine to serve as Assistant Secretary of Health at HHS.
Senator Rand Paul, R-Ky., questioned Dr. Levine over the nominee’s support for giving puberty blockers to minors who believe they are members of the opposite sex.
“Genital mutilation has been nearly universally condemned. Genital mutilation has been condemned by the WHO, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the United Nations Population Fund… it is considered particularly egregious because… it is nearly always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children,” Sen. Paul began. “American culture is now normalizing 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 destruction of a minor’s genitalia,” Sen. Paul noted. “Do you believe that minors are capable of making such a life changing decision as changing one’s sex?” Sen. Paul asked.
“Transgender medicine is a very complex and nuanced field with robust research and standards of care that have been developed,” Dr. Levine responded.
“The specific question was about minors,” Sen. Paul followed up. “Do you support the government’s intervention to override the parent’s consent to give a child puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and/or amputation surgery of breasts and genitalia?”
Before Dr. Levine answered, Sen. Paul followed up with the story of Keira Bell, who began to believe she was transgender when she was 14 and was given hormone blockers and opposite-sex hormones by the Tavistock and Portman Trust, a British transgender clinic. Bell also underwent a double mastectomy.
She eventually realized that “the medicalized gender transitioning was a very temporary, superficial fix for a complex identity issue,” Sen. Paul quoted.
Additionally, Bell filed a lawsuit against the clinic, getting a British court to rule that it was “highly unlikely” children and teens were “competent to give consent” and could “weigh the long-term risks and consequences” of drugs, hormones and surgery.
As Senator Paul noted, Bell knows that she will now suffer lifelong consequences due to the treatment she received.
Dr. Levine again evaded Sen. Paul’s question, instead asserting that transgender medicine was “very complex.”
.@RandPaul: “Do you support the government intervening to override the parents’ consent to give a child puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and/or amputation surgery of breasts and genitalia…?@SecretaryLevine: “Transgender medicine is a very complex and nuanced field.” pic.twitter.com/ylKokhTMwo — Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) February 25, 2021
“Let it go into the record that the witness refused to answer the question,” Sen. Paul said. “The question is a very specific one: should minors be making these momentous decisions?” Sen. Paul went on to note that the drugs being used to block puberty are all being used off label, since none of them have been approved for the purpose of “transitioning” a child.
Sen. @RandPaul: “You’re willing to let a minor take things to prevent their puberty, and you think they get back?! … None of these drugs have been approved for this. They’re all being used off-label… There’s no long-term studies. We don’t know what happens to them!” pic.twitter.com/jI9zQlmNN4 — Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) February 25, 2021
Sen. Paul alluded to Dr. Levine’s previous support for giving puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones to minors in a speech he gave at Franklin & Marshall College. The nominee opined that if a child is going through the “wrong puberty,” they should be given “pubertal blockers, medicine to block the progression… so that they never go through the wrong puberty.”
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Photo from TOM BRENNER/REUTERS