by Mary Margaret Olohan
The battle to “Save Women’s Sports” resulted in a slew of legislation banning biological males from girls’ sports and conversations on the national stage about gender, sex, individual dignity, and much more. Now the advocacy groups behind this push are assembling to battle the next burgeoning culture war issue — transgender sex change surgeries and procedures for minors.
Progressive activists, media, lawmakers, and even some medical professionals call such procedures “gender affirming medical care” and protest that denying an individual this “care” is cruel, regardless of age. Republican Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson vetoed the state’s SAFE Act in April, arguing that the legislation was a “vast government overreach” and that it shouldn’t jump into every ethical issue.
But advocacy groups like the Family Policy Alliance (FPA) insist these procedures irrevocably hurt children. And backed by a network of about 40 independent, state-based family policy councils, FPA aims to multiply the number of states across the nation that legally protect children from gender transition.
“Kids who are hurting and struggling need help, not harm,” FPA’s Meridian Baldacci told the Daily Caller News Foundation, “and that’s why we’re on a mission to help more leaders step up and protect children.”
Some political figures have downplayed the need for policy on hot button issues like transgender procedures or sports, like Democratic Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, who vetoed the state’s Fairness in Women’s Sports bill in June and called it “a solution in search of a problem that simply does not exist in Louisiana.”
But other governors, like Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, promise they are ready to tackle these issues head on.
“I’m very much opposed to chemical castration of minors, I honestly didn’t know this existed until a few years ago,” DeSantis told the DCNF in early June. “That would be something I would sign for sure.”
The Campaign To ‘Help Not Harm’
The FPA launched the ‘Help Not Harm‘ campaign Wednesday, the DCNF first learned, which aims to educate concerned citizens about gender dysphoria, gender transitions and “meaningful ways to help struggling children” and pushes Americans to call on lawmakers to “join the fight” to protect children.
FPA was instrumental in Arkansas’ battle to pass the SAFE Act: the state legislature ultimately defied the governor’s veto and passed the much disputed legislation that bans physicians from performing gender transition procedures on minors. The state’s actions made global news and pushed Hutchinson to address on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” whether he supports chemical castration for children.
WATCH: Tucker Carlson and Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson debate the governor's decision to veto a bill banning gender surgeries for minors that was later overridden by the Arkansas state legislature.
Gov. Hutchinson says that the bill "invokes the state" in medical decisions. pic.twitter.com/kwzGtTwtle
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) April 7, 2021
A federal judge blocked the SAFE Act from going into effect in late July, but Baldacci told the DCNF that Arkansas’ legislation set a new standard for child safety laws that the rest of the nation can look to for guidance and inspiration.
“We should never grow weary of protecting children. I’m proud of Arkansas legislators who were not afraid to stand up to the political mob and put kids first,” Republican Arkansas state Rep. Robin Lundstrum, the lead house sponsor of the SAFE Act, told the DCNF. “We must work together to pass legislation like the SAFE Act across the country so that children in every state are protected from chemical and surgical castration.”
The FPA provided the DCNF with a long list of advocacy groups or “family policy councils” that have endorsed the campaign, including Alaska Family Council, the Center for Arizona Policy, the California Family Council, the Hawaii Family Forum, the Massachusetts Family Institute, the Family Heritage Alliance in South Dakota, and the Family Policy Institute of Washington.
The organization’s allies are working with FPA across the country to push public policy in line with the organization’s goals and to fight back against progressive activists, policies and legal action.
FPA has also sought the endorsement of prominent conservative intellectuals who can take the fight to protect children into D.C. conversations, opinion pieces, think tanks, the Twitter-sphere and beyond. This includes experts at the Ethics and Pubic Policy Center (EPPC) like Ryan T. Anderson, Mary Rice Hassan and Roger Severino, as well as conservative culture leaders like the American Principles Project’s Terry Schilling.
“It is profoundly unethical to interfere in the normal physical development of a child as part of a process ‘affirming’ a ‘gender identity’ at odds with bodily sex,” Anderson, the author of “When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment,” told the DCNF. “Children deserve help, not harm, in embracing reality, including the reality of their body. Prudent legislation is needed to protect children from the many harms of experimental ‘gender’ therapies.”
Schilling, the leader of an organization focused on promoting and protecting family values, pointed out that there was a time not so long ago when “all medical practitioners agreed that biological reality should trump ideology and that healthcare should follow science and data, not politics.”
“Unfortunately, many in the medical community today have fallen captive to the mistaken idea, pushed by left-wing activists, that a person’s sex is determined by their mind, not their body, and they have now begun to push this idea onto children, prescribing them highly experimental drugs with dangerous, long-term side effects and putting them on an irreversible, life-altering path which they are too young to fully comprehend,” Schilling said. “This is a frightening trend which must be opposed.”
Saving Women’s Sports
The family policy councils’ prospects of success may seem daunting against challengers like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), but FPA and its cohort of family policy councils have already fought and won the battle over women’s sports in several states.
“The story of Save Girls’ Sports is really a story about the hard work of pro-family advocates and grassroots around the country,” Baldacci told the DCNF. “The family policy movement has known for some time that there was a need to protect girls’ and women’s sports. Over time, states began to introduce legislation to protect girls’ sports – many under the leadership of state family policy councils.”
FPA previously teamed up with family policy councils and lawmakers across the nation to spread awareness and prevent biological males from participating in women’s sports. The groups encouraged citizens to reach out to lawmakers and to the NCAA, to donate to advocacy organizations to support their efforts to protect girls, to speak out on social media so that friends of similar beliefs would realize that they were not alone.
Messaging focused on girls, and protecting girls’ ability to succeed: “College sports are for college athletes,” FPA’s website said. “Professional sports for pro athletes. And female sports should be for female athletes.”
At least 31 states have taken action to ban biological males from participating in female sports: Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wisconsin all introduced legislation that would biological males in girls sports.
Backed by FPA, Idaho was the first state in the nation to pass the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act” in March 2020. The legislation was quickly challenged in April 2020 by the ACLU in a federal court, prompting former President Donald Trump’s Justice Department to file a brief defending the law.
FPA responded to the ACLU’s lawsuit with a campaign to “Save Girls Sports” — and continued messaging about protecting young girls such as “The ACLU once championed girls’ sports – now they want to turn boys into girls’ sports champions” and “Don’t let the ACLU destroy girls’ sports.”
“Our “\’Save Girls’ Sports’ week last June garnered social media participation from many national and state groups, state lawmakers, and two members of Congress (Rep. Vicky Hartzler and Sen. Kelly Loeffler),” Baldacci told the DCNF. “We also rallied 46 state and national organizations in a letter to encourage the Trump Department of Education to stand strong on Title IX and protect girls’ sports.”
“In the months that followed, thousands signed in agreement with our online petition to Save Girls’ Sports, and many contacted lawmakers at both the national and state level as opportunities arose,” she added. “Meanwhile, other states continued to advance Save Girls’ Sports legislation, and many other national allies spoke out in their own space.”
FPA’s victories are due in a large part to allies on the ground who work tirelessly to change lawmakers minds, sit through hours-long hearings, and fight for specification in legislation, Baldacci said.
“All this momentum and the national conversation led to girls’ sports being at the center of the Equality Act debate,” she said. “Even mainstream media (AP) admits that the Save Girls’ Sports effort has stalled the Equality Act in the Senate. That national impact was made possible by groups across the nation rallying around the effort to protect female athletes.”
What Is This “Gender Affirming Medical Care”?
Lawmakers have proposed at least 121 bills related to transgender issues as of July 15, according to the LGBTQ activism organization GLAAD. In addition to Arkansas, Tennessee also banned ethically fraught hormone treatment for children who had not yet reached puberty.
Most media framing of the bills takes an activist approach rather than reporting the legislation straightforwardly. Outlets use vague phrases like “gender affirming medical care” or “trans affirming medical care” instead of saying sex change surgery or gender transition surgery.
“They keep rebranding the gender change process,” former transgender woman Walt Heyer, who now runs the website Sex Change Regret, previously told the DCNF. “First it was ‘sex change,’ then it was ‘gender reassignment.’ They want to make this not look like the child abuse it really is and now want to sell you and everyone else that it’s ‘gender affirming medical care.’”
Medical professionals who perform transgender procedures on children usually begin with puberty blockers such as the gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), which temporarily suppresses puberty for the child, according to the Mayo Clinic.
For biological males, the puberty blockers will decrease face and body hair growth, prevent the voice from deepening, and limit genitalia growth, according to Mayo Clinic. And for biological females, the puberty blockers will limit or stop menstruation and the development of the breasts.
The Endocrine Society recommends that clinicians begin puberty blockers after kids first show signs of puberty around age 11.
A U.K. judge ruled in December 2020 that it is “highly unlikely that a child aged 13 or under would be competent to give consent to the administration of puberty blockers,” adding that “it is doubtful that a child aged 14 or 15 could understand and weigh the long-term risks and consequences of the administration of puberty blockers.”
Transgender advocates “maintain that “the suppression of puberty using GnRHa is a reversible phase of treatment” and that puberty blockers can be considered ‘buying time’ to allow for an open exploration of the SR [sex reassignment] wish.”
But other experts have called puberty blockers a “momentous step in the dark,” wrote Dr. Jonathan Wells, a senior fellow at the Center for Science and Culture, citing studies showing that almost all children who go on puberty blockers proceed to take cross-sex hormones, which is the next step in the sex-change process.
Cross-sex hormones will cause the individual to develop more masculine or feminine secondary sex characteristics, according to Mayo Clinic.
The Endocrine Society recommends that children “who fulfill eligibility for gender reassignment” begin cross-sex hormone therapy at age 16, but notes that there may be “compelling reasons” to begin cross sex hormone treatment earlier, even though there are limited studies on cross-sex hormone treatment administered to children younger than 13 or 14.
Wells wrote that “since almost all children who start on them go on to take cross-sex hormones, it seems that the ‘completely reversible’ claim is exaggerated.”
It would more truthful, Wells said, to tell parents and children: “We can give you medicine that will block changes in puberty that you might find disturbing. According to the evidence, if you don’t take the medicine there is at least a three out of four chance that you will grow up happy with the body you have. On the other hand, once you start taking the medicine there is a 98 percent chance that you will go on to take cross-sex hormones. Those hormones will probably make you sterile, and you may have to take them for the rest of your life.”
The Endocrine Society suggests that young people wait until 18 to obtain sex-change surgery, though in some countries the age minimum is 16.
“These surgeries are equivalent to female genital mutilation,” Dr. Michelle Cretella, executive director of the American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds), told the DCNF. “A single transgender surgery on a child is one too many.”
“Sadly, over the last 6 years, transgender ideology has infiltrated the field of pediatrics so successfully that so called ‘gender experts’ can openly boast of sending 13 year old girls for double mastectomies and 16 or 17 year old girls for hysterectomies,” she continued. “Similarly, minor boys may be sent for castration and/or penectomies at age 17 (look no further than Jazz Jennings). Most Americans recognize that these surgeries are mutilating and sterilizing children. Consequently, policy makers from over a dozen states have approached ACPeds physicians over the last several years to review and/or testify in support of their proposed policies.”
ACPeds was the first to sound the alarm 10 years ago about the “growing trend to treat gender dysphoria in children as an inborn trait rather than a treatable psychological condition,” Cretella told the DCNF.
“In the intervening years, I have continued to represent ACPeds at the forefront defending the reality that no child is born in the wrong body,” she continued. “Biological sex is a medically significant unchangeable binary trait that is determined by genes at fertilization. This fact is why males who ‘identify as female’ remain male even if they take estrogen and undergo cosmetic surgeries to impersonate females; at the genetic level, they remain male.”
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Mary Margaret Olohan is a reporter at Daily Caller News Foundation.