Fact-check: U.S. Rep. Mary Miller wrong in claim White House is urging kids to use ‘chemical castration drugs’ or undergo surgeries
The BGA could find no language in either White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki’s statements or in the Department of Health and Human Services guidance that encourages children to take “chemical castration drugs” or undergo gender reassignment surgery.
U.S. Rep. Mary Miller claimed in a tweet that the Biden administration is encouraging children to use “chemical castration drugs” and undergo gender-reassignment surgeries.
“The Biden Administration is engaging in extreme ‘woke’ politics by encouraging children to take chemical castration drugs and undergo surgeries, and they are lying to children by telling them puberty blockers are ‘reversible,’” tweeted Miller, a Republican from east central Illinois, on April 8.
The target of Miller’s claim was Biden’s White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, who told reporters at her April 7 daily briefing that Alabama’s new law prohibiting such surgeries and medications for anyone under 18 would be challenged by the administration as “discriminatory” and a possible violation of the Constitution.
The Alabama measure is the most strident in a spate of similar laws passed in recent years by more than a dozen Republican-controlled state legislatures throughout the country. In Alabama, doctors and nurses could face felony charges and potential prison time for providing health care related to gender reassignment — including hormone therapy, puberty blocking drugs or any form of gender reassignment surgery.
“Alabama’s lawmakers and other legislators who are contemplating these discriminatory bills have been put on notice by the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services that laws and policies preventing care that health care professionals recommend for transgender minors may violate the Constitution and federal law,” Psaki said.
Asked for any other evidence to support the claim, Miller’s spokesperson provided a recent guidance issued by the Office of Population Affairs, which falls under the Department of Health and Human Services.
“For transgender and nonbinary children and adolescents, early gender-affirming care is crucial to overall health and well-being as it allows the child or adolescent to focus on social transitions and can increase their confidence while navigating the healthcare system,” the guidance says.
The BGA could find no language in either Psaki’s statements or in the Department of Health and Human Services guidance that encourages children to take “chemical castration drugs” or undergo gender reassignment surgery. Both Psaki’s statements and the guidance, however, cite potential outcomes for transgender and nonbinary children who receive gender-affirming care, such as improved mental health and a lower risk of suicide.
Miller’s team did not provide clarification on what the congresswoman meant by her usage of the term “chemical castration drugs.” Experts we spoke with said it is not a medical term and not commonly used by medical professionals but generally seems to be used to describe hormone therapy.
Puberty blockers, however, are gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists, or GnRH agonists, approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
“They put — exactly as it sounds — puberty on pause,” said Dr. Sumanas Jordan, director of Northwestern Medicine’s Gender Pathways program. Jordan said the drugs prevent the secondary sex characteristics, such as breast development, hair growth and voice deepening.
The American Medical Association, Endocrine Society and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health support the use of hormonal treatments for children who — with medical consultation — decide to delay puberty.
Professional medical organizations recommend against puberty blockers for children who have not reached puberty, which typically starts between ages 10 and 12. Hormone treatment for feminization or masculinization of the body is typically not considered until patients are at least 16. Gender reassignment surgery is typically only available to those 18 and older in the United States.
Jordan confirmed the effects of puberty blockers are indeed reversible.
Paula M. Neira, program director of LGBTQ+ Equity and Education at Johns Hopkins Medicine Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Health Equity, said access to gender-affirming care reduces the risks of depression, anxiety and suicide for youth struggling with gender identity.
Neira also said while puberty blockers are reversible, they cannot be used indefinitely.
We asked Miller to provide evidence the Biden administration is lying about puberty blockers being reversible, and she sent guidance published by the Mayo Clinic, a non-profit health organization not overseen by Biden’s administration. The clinic cites the potential long-term effects of puberty blockers — including bone growth and density, future fertility and growth spurts.
But there was nothing in the guidance to suggest the effects of puberty blockers are irreversible, as Miller seems to contend. Nor were there any statements from any government official saying anything about puberty blockers.
Either way, experts conclude the effects of puberty blockers are indeed reversible.
The Mayo Clinic’s guidance acknowledges some changes caused by puberty blockers could require surgery to reverse the effects, but it also said puberty can resume once the drugs are no longer taken.
Miller said the Biden administration is “encouraging children to take chemical castration drugs and undergo surgeries” and “are lying to children by telling them puberty blockers are reversible.”
The administration made no such assertions in the video Miller cited as evidence. If they had, most credible scientific studies show the effects of puberty blockers are reversible.
We rate this claim FALSE.
FALSE – The statement is not accurate.
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Rep. Mary Miller, “The Biden Administration is engaging in extreme ‘woke’ politics by encouraging children to take chemical castration drugs and undergo surgeries, and they are lying to children by telling them puberty blockers are ‘reversible.“ April 8, 2022 tweet
Alabama Lawmakers Approve Ban on Medical Care for Transgender Youth, April 7, 2022 New York Times
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki comments, April 7, 2022 White House Press Briefing
Office of Population Affairs and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Gender-Affirming Care and Young People Guidance
“No, young children cannot take hormones or change their sex” March 5, 2021 PolitiFact
Pubertal blockers for transgender and gender-diverse youth, Mayo Clinic
What to know about gender-affirming care for younger patients, American Medical Association
Prohibiting Gender-Affirming Care for Youth, UCLA School of Law Williams Institute