Board of Medicine Member Opposes Conversion Therapy Ban, Compares Practice to Acupuncture

Luis Prado/Noun Project

On Friday, the Iowa Board of Medicine denied a request to ban gender conversion therapy — a discredited and harmful practice pushed by anti-gay groups — for minors in the state. The 9-1 vote, according to the board, was done for logistical reasons, in order to allow for more time to look into the issue by setting up a study panel.

The Associated Press reported:

Some board members said that the validity of conversion therapies hasn’t been determined. Others wanted more information. The board’s vice chairman, Allison Schoenfelder, a doctor from Akron, initiated the vote to form a study subcommittee.

The notion that the validity of conversion therapy hasn’t been determined is patently false. The practice has been condemned by the American Psychiatric Association and many other leading medical groups, including the World Health Organization’s Pan American Health Organization, which found that the practice “lack[s] medical justification and represent[s] a serious threat to the health and well-being of affected people.” Proponents of the practice have argued that homosexuality is a mental illness, or at least a choice that can be changed, rather than a normal gender orientation.

According to a report in the Quad City Times, board member Charles Wadle — who, along with the board’s other members, is a Gov. Branstad appointee — questioned the request, noting that the board recognizes other (scientifically dubious but relatively harmless) practices like acupuncture:

“You’re kind of placing us in a difficult position,” said board member Charles Wadle, a West Des Moines physician and the only dissenter. He noted the board allows other medical methods — such as acupuncture, dry-needle therapy and chiropractic — that have come under challenge, “and I’m a little concerned about going down this road.”

Unsurprisingly, The Family Leader’s Chuck Hurley is speaking out against the request to ban gender conversion therapy. Last year, when Iowa Senate Democrats attempted to ban the practice legislatively among licensed professionals, the group released a statement saying, “Parents should be free to pursue professional counseling for their minor children as they see fit and without interference from the arbitrary and political hand of government.”

Gender conversion therapy for minors, despite its lack of medical legitimacy and serious potential for harm, has been banned in only five places in the United States: California, Illinois, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington, DC.

Gavin Aronsen
Gavin Aronsen is an editor and reporter for and founding member of the Iowa Informer. He previously worked as a city reporter for the Ames Tribune, research assistant to investigative journalist Wayne Barrett at the Village Voice, and in various roles at Mother Jones, where his work contributed to a National Magazine Award nomination for the magazine's digital media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Email: garonsen [at] iowainformer [dot] com.