OXON HILL, Md.—America First Legal filed a lawsuit last week demanding documents from the Food and Drug Administration regarding how strictly the FDA monitors the use of so-called puberty blockers and other hormone drugs for so-called gender-affirming care.
Ian Prior, the legal organization’s senior adviser, explained his group’s efforts against the transgender movement in an interview with The Daily Signal on Thursday.
Speaking at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, Prior discussed lawsuits aimed at blocking what he called “the school-to-scalpel pipeline,” which victimizes impressionable children by putting them on a path to experimental interventions with negative side effects, a trend he compared to the opioid crisis.
Prior cited Jamie Reed, a whistleblower who worked at St. Louis Children’s Hospital’s transgender center. Reed claimed that doctors would rush children into medical transition without a thorough investigation into potential underlying psychological issues that might cause an ostensible transgender identity. He said Reed’s claims “woke up a lot of people.”
While transgender activists and medical associations endorse pharmaceutical interventions to make a child’s body match his or her stated gender identity, either by delaying the natural process of puberty or by introducing masculine characteristics on a female or vice versa, Prior warned about the side effects of these drugs.
“Puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones can lead to sterilization and a range of other serious health issues, including depression, blood clots, high blood pressure, weight gain, and in some cases, suicide,” Prior said. “For example, drugs like Lupron are used to chemically castrate sex offenders and are currently being injected into young boys to ‘transition’ them into girls.”
America First Legal sued the FDA because the FDA has not approved drugs like Lupron for treating gender dysphoria—the painful and persistent condition of identifying with the gender opposite one’s biological sex—in children.
Prior compared the endorsement of those drugs to the opioid crisis.
About 20 years ago, “doctors were telling everybody that opioids weren’t addictive, and they’re effective to treat pain, and we should do that, and now we have an opioid crisis.” He lamented that “nobody stood up and said, ‘We could be going down a path where over 100,000 people a year die because of this.’”
“Now we’re in the same spot. We just assume that, well, the government says this, and these pharmaceutical companies say this, and it must be great, because we’re just trying to be tolerant,” he noted. “No, we’re looking at something that’s going to have a generational impact.”
While major medical organizations in the United States advocate for these interventions, hospitals and governments in Europe have withdrawn their support in favor of a “watchful waiting” approach, the medical organization Do No Harm reported earlier this year.
Meanwhile, Republicans have led legal efforts to limit these interventions for minors, and Florida’s Department of Health has studied the issue, aiming to develop standards of care.
People who formerly identified as transgender and who undertook these interventions have filed lawsuits against the doctors who prescribed the drugs. The Center for American Liberty sued Kaiser Permanente and its doctors on behalf of detransitioner Chloe Cole, a teenager who undertook so-called puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones, and had a double mastectomy between the ages of 13 and 17. Harmeet Dhillon, Cole’s lawyer, said the lawsuit aims to hold Kaiser and its doctors “accountable for their despicable plot to mutilate children and financially benefit from it.”
Prior mentioned that lawsuit, but he also said he is focused on where the process starts; namely, in schools. Prior founded the organization Fight for Schools in order to advocate for parents who have been excluded from key decisions regarding the health and sexual education of their children.
“It’s the ‘school-to-scalpel pipeline,’ where at school at a very young age, they start introducing this ideology to children, children who have no conception of these kind of things, but they want to get in there early and say, ‘Well, you can be 72 different genders,’” Prior said.
He noted that so-called puberty blockers are “the first step.” While doctors prescribe them in order to “pause” the natural process of puberty, these drugs “can have long-term effects down the road.”
“Now, the Left will tell you, ‘Oh, this is totally reversible. You’re just pressing pause,’” he noted. “You’re pressing pause on puberty, and this is not what these drugs are for. They’re being used off-label, and that is something that’s extremely important.”
Prior’s organization sued the FDA for documents regarding the off-label use of these drugs, because the federal agency has not officially approved the drugs for the purpose of blocking normal puberty for children with gender dysphoria, the persistent and painful condition of identifying with the gender opposite one’s biological sex.
The “school-to-scalpel” pipeline does not stop with these drugs, however.
“Then you get into the cross-sex hormones, and that’s where boys will start developing breasts. Girls will start developing facial hair, their voice will start changing, and then, ultimately, you get to the surgery,” Prior continued. “They call it ‘top surgery,’ which is slicing off their breasts, or bottom surgery, which it’s changing vaginas into quasi-penises and vice versa. And these things are irreversible.”
He noted that detransitioners say, “‘We didn’t know what we were doing … and now there’s nothing we can do to go back to what we were before.’”
“Yet the Left continues to push this, continues to want to pretend that this is not happening,” Prior added. “It is traumatic, and it is, quite frankly, evil.”
Prior also addressed parents’ legal rights, noting that some activists, educators, and legislators support schools hiding a child’s apparent transgender identity from his or her parents.
“What they’re saying is that you are an abusive parent if you do not allow your child to go down the path of puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and irreversible surgery,” Prior explained. “So, it needs to be stopped at the schools with the bathroom policies, with the notification-of-parents policies, and it’s tough. It is tough to go through the courts to get these kind of things done, but that’s one of the things that we’re trying to do.”
He mentioned the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals’ 7-4 ruling on Dec. 30, upholding a school district’s policy preventing male students who claim to “identify” as girls from using girls restrooms. This created a split in the circuit courts, opening up a pathway for the Supreme Court to take up a case on the issue. Prior said he is “hopeful” the high court will do so.
He also noted that while parents have legal rights to determine what is best for their children, many states lack an enforcement system for such rights—meaning that they have to bring a federal case under the 14th Amendment.
Prior also pushed back against the notion that parents should not have a say in these issues because teachers are professional educators.
“We’re not talking about math and science and English,” he said. “Most people probably don’t want to teach their kids calculus, but what we don’t want is teachers teaching children about these kind of social issues, these moral issues,” which are “the responsibility of parents, not the government.”
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