By Advocate.com Editors
A hormonal treatment given to pregnant mothers who are at risk of giving birth to babies with ambiguous genitalia is raising concern among some researchers and gay activists because the treatment also decreases the likelihood that the baby will grow up a lesbian, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The treatment, which is called prenatal dexamethasone therapy and is only given to a few dozen women every year, is a step toward “engineering in the womb for sexual orientation,” says Alice Dreger, an opponent of the treatment and a professor at Northwestern University.
“Most clinicians speak about this treatment as ambiguous-genitalia prevention,” Dreger says. “Others suggest that you should prevent homosexuality if you can. But being gay or lesbian is not a disease and should not be treated as such.”
In the face of criticism from Dreger and others, such as the National Center for Lesbian Rights, a consortium of medical groups will release updated guidelines for the treatment in September. The updates are expected to describe the treatment as experimental and reiterate that the standard approach for cases of ambiguous genitalia is to perform corrective surgery.
But even that guideline change is likely to face opposition from intersex activists who oppose corrective genital surgery on newborns. As the Intersex Society of America explains on its website, “That is a crucial reason why medically unnecessary surgeries should not be done without the patient’s consent; the child with an intersex condition may later want genitals (either the ones they were born with or surgically constructed anatomy) different than what the doctors would have chosen. Surgically constructed genitals are extremely difficult if not impossible to “undo,” and children altered at birth or in infancy are largely stuck with what doctors give them.”