The American Academy of Pediatrics quietly reaffirmed its 2018 policy supporting gender treatments on minors this week, as more states ban these practices on children. However, the leading pediatric group also called for a systematic review of the medical research supporting these treatments, a move that the organization has long resisted and was called a potential “game-changer” by one critic of the controversial health care.
Medical experts critical of gender treatments on minors praised the decision to take a closer look at the research, but criticized the AAP for continuing to support these interventions before a review on the research has concluded.
A clinical epidemiologist and physician argued the organization should not be backing these treatments without strong evidence to back up their safety.
The move is “very clearly putting the cart before the horse,” Dr. Gordon Guyatt, a clinical epidemiologist at McMaster University who helped develop the field of evidence-based medicine, told The New York Times.
He cited how several European countries have modified their policies after analyzing the available research. The NHS recently announced it will not routinely offer puberty-blocking drugs to children at gender identity clinics, saying more evidence is needed about the potential benefits and harms, the Associated Press reported.
Guyatt told The Times he believed that the AAP will most likely find low-quality evidence for pediatric gender care. “The policies of the Europeans are much more aligned with the evidence than are the Americans’,” he said.
Leo Sapir, a fellow who studies transgender care at the Manhattan Institute think tank, recently told the Wall Street Journal that similar processes in Europe found the studies used to cite support for these medical interventions “are too unreliable and the risks are too serious.”
However, the AAP defended keeping the current policy while a review is underway.
“The board has confidence that the existing evidence is such that the current policy is appropriate,” Chief Executive Mark Del Monte said. “At the same time, the board recognized that additional detail would be helpful here.”
The news that the AAP was taking a closer look at the available evidence was touted by others as a turning point in the debate over the controversial health care policy.
Oregon-based pediatrician Dr. Julia Mason, who has lobbied since 2020 for the AAP to commission a systematic review on gender treatments, told the Times she was happy the group was finally taking action.
“We are making strong recommendations based on weak evidence,” she said.
Activist Chris Elston, better known as “Billboard Chris,” called the news a potential “game-changer.”
Journalist Benjamin Ryan also found the news “significant.”
Lawyer and Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism, Wesley J. Smith, said the AAP would’ve been more “responsible” to hold off until more research was done. He conceded that a “half step [was] better than nothing.”
Dr. Marci Bowers, a gynecologic and reconstructive surgeon and the president of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, supported the AAP’s stance, citing the group’s experience with children who said the move would improve children’s lives.
“They know this population,” Bowers told The Times. “They know the stories. Anecdotally, it’s overwhelmingly positive.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics did not respond to a request for comment.
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Fox News’ Anders Hagstrom contributed to this report.