Pennsylvania state boards ban 'conversion therapy' for minors - TAI News
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Trans and LGBTQIA plus youth lead a march down Market Street in defense of Trans human rights on Trans Visibility Day in Philadelphia, PA, on March 31, 2023. (Photo by Cory Clark/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

Several state health-related licensing boards in Pennsylvania have recently adopted policies condemning the use of conversion therapy for minors.

The administration of Gov. Josh Shapiro announced on May 2 that five state boards — the boards of Medicine; Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists and Professional Counselors; Psychology; and Osteopathic Medicine — had all recently voted to adopt new statements of policy opposing conversion therapy for children.

Conversion therapy, also known as reparative therapy or sexuality counseling, is the scientifically discredited practice of attempting to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

The five state boards that adopted the new policies license professionals in their respective fields. The boards’ condemnations of conversion therapy mean that licensees can be subject to administrative discipline, or even lose their license entirely, if they engage in such purported therapies.

“This decisive action makes clear that there is no place for the harmful, dangerous practice of conversion therapy here in our Commonwealth,” Shapiro said in his administration’s announcement. “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.”

The Trevor Project, a nonprofit focused on suicide prevention and crisis intervention for LGBTQ+ youth, said in a statement that as many as 16% of LGBTQ+ young people in Pennsylvania reported that they were subjected to or threatened with conversion therapy in the last year.

“Despite every major medical and mental health association in the country denouncing this practice, conversion therapy is, tragically, still very much an ongoing and pervasive practice that traumatizes young people all across the country,” Troy Stevenson, the organization’s director of state advocacy campaigns, said in the statement. 

The organization cited research indicating that young people who said they had undergone conversion therapy were more than twice as likely to have attempted suicide in the last year as those who hadn’t.

“Knowing that an estimated 44% of LGBTQ+ youth, including 54% 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,” Stevenson said.

According to the Shapiro administration, the Trevor Project joined other organizations earlier this year in informing the state boards that conversion therapy was still a threat to LGBTQ+ youth in Pennsylvania despite a 2022 executive order signed by former Gov. Tom Wolf directing agencies to discourage the practice.

By the organization’s count, 23 states and the District of Columbia now ban licensed medical providers from engaging in conversion therapy.

The boards’ new statements of policy will be effective once they are published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin, according to the Shapiro administration, which noted that anyone can file a complaint against a licensed professional engaging in conversion therapy or other unprofessional activities through the Pennsylvania Department of State website.

“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 our shoulders,” Ashleigh Strange, executive director of the Governor’s Advisory Commission on LGBTQ Affairs, said.

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