Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has issued an executive order prohibiting conversion therapy in the state among minors —any "practice or treatment that seeks or purports to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity."
As part of the order, agencies will be tasked with ensuring that state funds, programs, and other resources are not utilized to endorse or provide conversion therapy, a practice which "actively harms the people it supposedly seeks to treat," says Wolf, a Democrat.
He added: "This discriminatory practice is widely rejected by medical and scientific professionals and has been proven to lead to worse mental health outcomes for LGBTQIA+ youth subjected to it. This is about keeping our children safe from bullying and extreme practices that harm them."
On social media, Governor Wolf highlighted his three main directives for state agencies:
- Do everything in their power to discourage conversion therapy.
- Actively promote evidence-based medical treatment for LGBTQIA+ individuals.
- Update policies and procedures to better support LGBTQIA+ Pennsylvanians.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, American Psychological Association, and American Medical Association have each condemned conversion therapy as an essential practice among minors, characterizing it as an "unfounded misconception of sexual orientation and gender identity."
The above groups worry about the self-harm component with minors, particularly those who might not be emotionally mature enough to handle conversion therapies.
According to a 2020 report from the Williams Institute, lesbian, gay, and bisexual people in the U.S. were "nearly twice as likely" to experience suicidal thoughts after gender conversion.
Also, roughly one-third of adults said they got conversion therapy from a health care provider.
The Trevor Project, a national LGBTQ+ youth suicide prevention and crisis intervention group, estimates the "direct" and "indirect" costs of conversion therapy — including medical attention for anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and suicide attempts — puts a $9.23 billion strain on the U.S. government each year.
During his EO announcement, Wolf cited a separate report from The Trevor Project, stating the negative mental health outcomes among LGBTQ+ youth are much lower in communities, schools and families that are "accepting and supportive of their identities."
To which Wolf says, "That's why I signed this executive order to protect Pennsylvanians from conversion therapy and the damage it does to our communities. Because all of our youth deserve to grow up in a commonwealth that accepts and respects them."
Other states such as Texas, have taken other approaches to the treatment for minors.
In February, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a nonbinding opinion, classifying certain medical treatments for transgender youth, "such as hormone therapy and puberty blockers," as "child abuse."
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott then directed the state's Child Protective Services division to investigate any allegations linked to this care.
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