Various states have moved to allow children to secure birth control without the knowledge or notification of parents, including schools that reportedly will implant IUDs in children as young as sixth graders. Oregon however is going further still and reportedly allowed 15-year-olds to get a sex-change operation at state expense under its Medicaid program. What is curious is that Oregon officials are thus far refusing to discuss the program with media despite its obvious importance to the citizens of the state. If these reports are inaccurate, we should hear it directly from these officials. If this story is true, we are witnessing a significant change in our notion of parental rights without even a passing conversation over the basis and scope of such changes.
I have long been a critic of moves to exclude parents from notification of such procedures as abortions as a violation of parental rights. The idea that a child might be able to get such a sex-change operation without notification, let alone approval, of parents is astonishing. The notion that your son could return your daughter without notice is like a scene out of some sitcom.
Yet, Oregon Health Authority spokeswoman Susan Wickstrom said that the age of medical consent is set by state law and that age is 15 in Oregon. That allows the teenager to secure a sex-change operation and seek state coverage from the Health Evidence Review Commission (HERC). Since gender dysphoria is classified by the American Psychiatric Association as a mental disorder in which a person identifies as the sex opposite of his or her birth, the basis for refuse such an operation may be limited.
We have been discussing how medical and psychiatric experts are now approving the raising of boys and girls as young as five as the opposite gender. This obviously is a much more permanent course of change.
Nevertheless, Jenn Burleton, founder of the Portland non-profit group TransActive, insists that requiring parental consent would lead to more stress and even suicide: “Parents may not be supportive. They may not be in an environment where they feel the parent will affirm their identity, this may have been going on for years.” That is certainly true. However, they also may be supportive. They are a family and the parents raised this child.
It is important to note that a long list of criteria must still be met for such approval to occur. However, it is the lack of parental involvement that concerns me the most.
HERC estimates that as many as 112 Oregon kids may be gender dysphoric. The cost of cross-sex hormone therapy, puberty-suppressing drugs and sex reassignment surgeries are expected to be as high as $150,000 per year. However, HERC argues that the costs must be balanced against the education in suicides. It predicts that procedures will avoid one suicide a year with an average cost per suicide attempt in the U.S. is $7,234. Putting aside the merits of the program as a whole, that type of cost-benefit arguments seems highly questionable and illusory in my view. That does not mean that this program cannot be defended on medical or psychiatric grounds, but I do not believe that these are costs that are easily compared or measured.
In the end, we need to have a long-delayed discussion about parental rights in this nation for the array of different procedures and services for children without the notice or consent of parents.
What do you think?