woman getting ultrasound diagnostic from doctor
woman getting ultrasound diagnostic from doctor

Sacrificing Pre-Natal Wellness on the Altar of Trans Ideology

Originally published at National Review

My good friend Jennifer Lahl, president of the Center for Bioethics and Culture, co-authored a piece with CBC executive director Kellie Fell, righteously criticizing a professional journal article that advocates allowing females who identify as men to remain on testosterone during pregnancy. The idea seemed so crackers, so grotesque, that I decided to read it for myself. All I can say is: Good grief!

The article, published in the professional journal Qualitative Research in Health, places the feelings of pregnant females who identify as men above the wellbeing of gestating infants:

Social justice activists, scholars, and the field of critical studies have made important strides to highlight how the desire to maximize the “fitness” of offspring, and guard against development of conditions or human characteristics considered “unhealthy” or less than ideal, may reflect troubling eugenicist and biomedical moralist underpinnings in ways that further harm already-socially-marginalized people [citations omitted] argues that contemporary pregnancy, in particular, has become a site of epistemic injustice through processes of medical professionals and technologies assuming power and epistemic authority over pregnancy and pregnant people, often denying or superseding the epistemic privilege, knowledge, and control that a pregnant person has over their own body and embodied pregnancy experience.

Similarly, both MacKendrick (2018) and Waggoner (2017) clearly demonstrate how responsibilities for ensuring the health and well-being of embryos, fetuses, children, and families are forms of gendered precautionary labor in which “safety first” approaches result in additional social control over women and their everyday lives, often despite equivocal empirical evidence supporting the benefits of such precautions…

These approaches reinscribe binarized notions of sex, resulting in social control in their attempts to safeguard against non-normative potential future outcomes for offspring. These offspring-focused risk-avoidance strategies and approaches are, we argue, part of the gendered precautionary labor of pregnancy and pregnancy care itself, and not without potentially-harmful consequences for trans people and society more broadly. [Emphasis added.]

Allow me to translate. By taking pregnant women who identify as men off testosterone during pregnancy, doctors are placing the safety of babies above the feelings of the mother. This, despite a lack of empirical data about the impact of testosterone on gestating babies. Hence, applying a precautionary principle approach to protecting gestating babies is transphobic and akin to eugenics.

Throughout their essay, the authors — who are all university professors, of course — validate my analysis of their odious ideological advocacy. For example, this paragraph:

The logics guiding current medical advice around precautionary testosterone cessation in pregnancy involve potentially troubling assessments of the sorts of risks testosterone exposure in the prenatal and postpartum environments may pose for later child and adult development: namely, potentially heightened likelihoods of autism, obesity, intersex conditions, being lesbian and/or trans. In this way, precautionary practices of protecting the offspring of trans people become, paradoxically, a method of social control through safeguarding against reproduction of some of the very same characteristics held by some trans parents themselves. It also raises the specter of panoptics of the womb and epistemic injustice as it simultaneously reflects elevation of the epistemic authority of medical professionals and erosion of the epistemic privilege of trans gestational parents. [Emphasis added.]

What is “panoptics of the womb,” you ask? Sorry. I haven’t a clue.

The authors propose what would be unethical human experimentation:

We also find that, despite relatively standard precautionary medical advice for trans people to stop or pause testosterone administration prior to conception, during the gestational period, and across the duration of chestfeeding/breastfeeding, there remains little empirical evidence guiding this advisement, particularly in the context of testosterone microdosing. As shuster (2016, p. 321) notes: Much of trans medicine has been built on the assumption of binary genders … [T]rans people’s understandings of their selves and bodies have become more fluid, and ‘cross’-gender transitioning is not always the ultimate goal.” Indeed, future medical research might approach continuation of testosterone during pregnancy among trans people not as a binary yes/no question or a topic to approach for the purpose of developing one-size-fits-all medical standardization (Timmermans & Almeling, 2009), but one that investigates the potential impacts (on trans patients and their offspring) of continuing various dosages of testosterone across pregnancy. [Emphasis added.]

Of course there is a lack of data. Putting gestating mothers on testosterone during a normal pregnancy is a novel concept that no doctor would have proposed until the intellectual corruption of gender ideology infected the medical and intellectual establishments. It would have zero benefit for the baby and could cause great harm. Moreover, doing these studies and gathering the data would be unethical human experimentation. Babies are not guinea pigs. Protecting their wellbeing during gestation is a paramount purpose of prenatal care. Whatever feelings the pregnant transgender mother might have about it should be a secondary concern.

Much more needs to be said about this, but I don’t have the space, and Lahl/Fell do a splendid job of deconstruction. I urge interested readers to go to their piece, which I linked to above. The practice of gender-ideological medicine around pregnancy must be rejected out of hand.

Wesley J. Smith

Chair and Senior Fellow, Center on Human Exceptionalism
Wesley J. Smith is Chair and Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism. Wesley is a contributor to National Review and is the author of 14 books, in recent years focusing on human dignity, liberty, and equality. Wesley has been recognized as one of America’s premier public intellectuals on bioethics by National Journal and has been honored by the Human Life Foundation as a “Great Defender of Life” for his work against suicide and euthanasia. Wesley’s most recent book is Culture of Death: The Age of “Do Harm” Medicine, a warning about the dangers to patients of the modern bioethics movement.