Don’t Defend Planned Parenthood’s ‘Gender-Affirming Care.’ Defund it.
In post-Roe America, Planned Parenthood is shifting gears. To make up for its lost abortion revenue, it’s expanding its reach into what it calls “transgender hormone therapy.” The recent spike in these services is telling.
According to their most recent annual reports, most of the nearly 600 Planned Parenthood centers now dispense cross-sex hormones. In 2016, only 32 Planned Parenthood clinics provided similar services.
A 2022 Heritage Foundation analysis found that between one-third and one-half of the centers had entered the gender-bending market. One year later, Planned Parenthood’s newest reports reveal that what it calls “gender-affirming care” increased by 49%. (The Daily Signal is the news outlet of The Heritage Foundation.)
Some regions outpaced others. For example, Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio boasts a 544% increase in “transgender services” visits from 2021 to 2022.
Gender ideologues argue this spike in people “identifying” as transgender, nonbinary, and so forth simply reflects a more accepting American culture. But if growing acceptance drives this growth, then liberal areas of the country would, in theory, see a smaller increase in patient visits in the past year compared with conservative areas.
After all, the ever-expanding “Pride” phenomenon started much earlier in dark-blue enclaves, such as Portland, Oregon, and New York City.
That’s not what the data shows, however. Columbia-Willamette, a Planned Parenthood affiliate covering the greater Portland area, nearly quadrupled its “gender-affirming care” visits from 2021 to 2022. So, what caused this 3,063-visit increase? “Increased acceptance” is surely not the answer.
Recent studies have sought to identify the root causes of distress over one’s sex, officially called gender dysphoria. Parent-child conflict, peer influence, social media, and a history of mental health issues might all play a role.
We don’t have all the answers right now. But this uncertainty is surely a good reason to proceed with caution, rather than to dive headlong into these experimental medical interventions.
With more people getting gender interventions at Planned Parenthood and elsewhere, what is the evidence for long-term benefits? Some patients report short-term relief, post-transition. But there is no evidence that those treatments are better than therapeutic solutions.
On the contrary, there’s a growing consensus that irreversible treatments do serious harm to those suffering from gender dysphoria.
The side effects of the cross-sex hormones, some of which are also used to chemically castrate pedophiles, are severe. They include infertility, stunted growth, and an increased risk of depression, blood clots, and cancer.
Research by Heritage’s Jay Greene comparing states that do and do not allow minors to receive hormone therapy without parental consent is sobering. He found that easy access to these drugs was associated with a higher risk of suicide. This finding contradicts the claim that medical treatments for gender dysphoria are “lifesaving.”
So, how are other countries responding to the irreversible nature of “gender-affirming” hormone therapy and the abysmal post-treatment results for patients? Traditionally liberal Western European nations, such as the U.K., Sweden, and Finland, are now much more restrictive. Norway’s health authorities are also now moving in the same direction. These decisions, backed by systematic reviews, found no evidence that the benefits of medical treatment for gender dysphoria outweigh the risks. The United States is now an outlier among Western peers in pushing affirmation alone.
With mass uncertainty around both the causes and proper treatment for gender dysphoria, the U.S. should hit the metaphorical pause button on expanding life-altering gender-transition services, not double down on them.
In the past couple of years, many conservative states have moved to protect minors from harmful medical interventions, and more should follow. But the federal government should do its part by eliminating federal funding for gender-altering drugs and surgeries.
Thankfully, some policymakers are stepping up to the plate. Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, proposed a bill that would prevent children’s hospitals from receiving federal tax dollars if they provided gender hormone or surgical procedures to minors in the past year. House Republicans’ 2024 spending bill for the departments of Labor and Health and Human Services says Medicare and Tricare can’t cover gender-transition services.
The Hyde Amendment has for decades kept the federal government from funding abortions. The law should also shield the American taxpayer from supporting gender treatments that have — at best — unknown long-term results on kids.
Congress should defund Planned Parenthood’s latest “gender-affirming” boondoggle and instead fund real health care that doesn’t hurt women and girls, unborn children, and kids struggling with gender dysphoria.
Melanie Israel is a policy analyst with the DeVos Center for Life, Religion, and Family at The Heritage Foundation.
This article was originally published in The Daily Signal.