Biden’s trans nominee for HHS dodges Rand Paul's questions about sex changes for kids

Rachel Levine, a trans-identified nominee for Assistant Secretary in the Department of Health and Human Services, testifies at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee on February 25, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Levine previously served as Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health. | Caroline Brehman-Pool/Getty Images

President Joe Biden’s nominee to serve as assistant secretary in the Department of Health and Human Servicesrefused to answer whether minors have the capacity to make life-changing decisions about their gender when questioned during a Senate confirmation hearing on Thursday.

Dr. Rachel Levine, a man previously named Richard who identifies as transgender and currently serves as secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, was questioned by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., during a hearing before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. Paul began his questioning of Levine by discussing the topic of genital mutilation and repeatedly asked him to opine on whether minors should have the power to decide to undergo life-altering elective procedures in an attempt to look more like the opposite sex. 

“Genital mutilation has been nearly universally condemned. Genital mutilation has been condemned by the WHO (World Health Organization), the United Nations Children’s Fund, (and) the United Nations Population Fund,” Paul explained as he questioned Levine.

“According to the WHO, genital mutilation is recognized internationally as a violation of human rights. Genital mutilation is considered particularly egregious because as the WHO notes, it is nearly always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children,” the senator added. 

Paul lamented the fact that “American culture is now normalizing the idea that minors can be given hormones to prevent the biological development of their secondary sexual characteristics” and expressed concern that Levine had “supported allowing minors to be given hormone blockers to prevent them from going through puberty as well as surgical destruction of a minor’s genitalia.”

After explaining that “hormonal interruption of puberty can permanently alter and prevent secondary sexual characteristics” and that “the American College of Pediatricians reports that 80% to 95% of pre-pubertal children with gender dysphoria will experience resolution by late adolescence if not exposed to medical intervention and social affirmation,” Paul asked Levine: “Do you believe that minors are capable of making such a life-changing decision as changing one’s sex?”

Levine replied: “Transgender medicine is a very complex and nuanced field with robust research and standards of care that have been developed. If I am fortunate enough to be confirmed as the assistant secretary of Health, I will look forward to working with you and your office and coming to your office and discussing the particulars of the standards of care for transgender medicine.”

Paul reiterated that his question was about minors, urging Levine to “be a little more specific” and then asked, “Do you support the government intervening to override the parents’ consent to give a child puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and/or amputation surgery of breasts and genitalia?”

Before allowing Levine to answer, Paul told the story of 23-year-old Keira Bell, who was “confused with her identity” and was prescribed puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones in addition to having her breasts amputated.

As Paul noted, Bell later decided that she had “made a brash decision as a teenager, as a lot of teenagers do,” describing the “medicalized gender transitioning” as a “very temporary, superficial fix for a very complex identity issue.”

Paul expressed alarm at Levine’s failure to explicitly agree that “minors shouldn’t be making decisions to amputate their breasts or to amputate their genitalia” before asking the nominee to “make a more firm decision on whether minors should be involved in these decisions.”

After Levine reiterated his earlier response to Paul’s previous question, the Kentucky senator requested that the record indicate that “the witness refused to answer the question.”

Paul concluded his questioning of Levine by explaining that sterility is a consequence of medicalized gender transitioning along with the fact that the puberty-blocking drugs are being used “off-label.”

Paul also accused his Democratic colleagues of hypocrisy for expressing outrage at the use of Hydroxychloroquine as an untested coronavirus treatment while not having a problem with the use of untested puberty-blocking drugs.

“There’s no long-term studies," Paul declared. "We don’t know what happens to them. We do know that there are dozens and dozens of people who have been through this who … regret this happened and a permanent change happened to them.”

If confirmed, Levine would become the first openly trans-identified individual to serve in a presidential cabinet. Levine’s confirmation hearing came as the confirmation vote for another one of Biden’s cabinet nominees, Neera Tanden, was postponed due to an increasing number of senators speaking out against her confirmation.

Biden’s nominee to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra, has also received intense criticism from pro-life groups due to his abortion advocacy. Last week, more than 60 pro-life organizations sent a letter to Biden urging him to withdraw Becerra’s nomination.

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