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Pennsylvania regulatory health boards condemn conversion therapy

Pa. Gov. Josh Shapiro
Official Site of Gov. Josh Shapiro; VH-studio/Shutterstock

Left: Gov. Josh Shapiro

Those who subject minors to the procedure may face discipline, they warn.

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All five relevant state regulatory boards in Pennsylvania have approved a policy opposing conversion therapy for minors and warning the professionals they license that they may be disciplined for violating it.

The state Board of Nursing Thursday joined the boards of Medicine, Psychology, Osteopathic Medicine, and Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists, and Professional Counselors, which all voted recently to adopt new statements of policy saying minors should not be subjected to the discredited and harmful practice. Conversion therapy seeks to turn LGBTQ+ people straight and/or cisgender.

“This decisive action makes clear that there is no place for the harmful, dangerous practice of conversion therapy here in our Commonwealth,” Gov. Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, said in a press release. “We value real freedom here in Pennsylvania — and no matter what you look like, where you come from, who you pray to, or who you love, you should be able to express who you are and be free from harassment and discrimination. My Administration will continue working to make sure that everyone is protected, feels welcome, and can thrive in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”

The new policies notify licensees that all five boards consider the use of conversion therapy to be unprofessional, harmful conduct and that any licensee engaging in it may be subject to administrative discipline.

“Since hateful rhetoric and pseudoscience still dominate the clinical experiences of many LGBTQ+ Pennsylvanians, knowing that our state oversight boards saw fit to pass these protections is a small weight off of our shoulders,” Ashleigh Strange, executive director of the Governor’s Advisory Commission on LGBTQ+ Affairs, said in the release. “This is a solid step toward letting folks know that identifying as LGBTQ+ is not a disease or a crime in Pennsylvania. You have a safe place here.”

The Trevor Project, which assists LGBTQ+ young people in crisis, including those considering suicide, told state boards this year that conversion therapy remains an issue in Pennsylvania despite an August 2022 executive order from then-Gov. Tom Wolf aimed at discouraging the practice. Legislators have attempted to pass bills outlawing use of conversion therapy on minors, but those bills have all stalled.

Troy Stevenson, director of state advocacy campaigns at the Trevor Project, issued a statement praising Pennsylvania’s action. “The Trevor Project’s research found that young people who reported undergoing conversion therapy were more than twice as likely to report having attempted suicide in the past year,” he said. “Knowing that an estimated 44 percent of LGBTQ+ youth, including 54 percent of transgender and nonbinary youth, in Pennsylvania seriously considered suicide in the past year, these actions are especially critical for ensuring the health and safety of young people across the state. We are grateful to the Shapiro administration, the Pennsylvania Commission on LGBTQ Affairs, the National Association of Social Workers Pennsylvania Chapter, the Pennsylvania Psychological Association, PFLAG, National Center for Lesbian Rights, the Human Rights Campaign, and mental health professionals and advocates across the commonwealth, for their work over the last several years to protect the mental health and well-being of young people across the commonwealth.”

Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia have banned the use of conversion therapy on minors, according to the Movement Advancement Project. Five other states and Puerto Rico have taken actions that amount to a partial ban. Numerous cities and counties have enacted bans as well.

The American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, and many other professional groups have repudiated the practice due to lack of scientific evidence supporting it and the risk of harm it poses to minors.

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Trudy Ring

Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.
Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.