Dr. Marie New of Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City is experimenting with steroid injections in fetuses that will “make girls ‘more feminine’ and reduce odds they turn out gay,” according to an article in the Oregonian.
Back in mid-June, Time magazine wrote on article entitled, “A Prenatal Treatment Raises Questions of Medical Ethics,” which focused on Marie New and a controversy concerning “cures” for a condition they refer to as CAH, short for congenital adrenal hyperplasia. The condition has to do with the adrenal gland, but in many cases results in ambiguous genetalia in females. Apparently 1 in every 16,000 babies is born with this condition. In many cases doctors in the past have made executive decisions to do reconstructive surgery on babies – most often times resulting in a traditionally “female” baby.
According to research, the medical establishment has long recognized that gay and lesbian people are not inherently diseased. Obviously, Dr. New and her collaborators didn’t get that memo back in 1973.
The steroid, dexamethasone (dex), that Marie New and others have assigned to treat CAH carries risks. But that hasn’t stopped doctors from injecting dex into prenatal mothers to decrease the symptoms of CAH and increase femininity. According to Marie New: “CAH women as a group have a lower interest than controls in getting married and performing the traditional child-care/housewife role.”
Pregnant women are offered this steroid before babies are diagnosed with CAH, in spite of a persistent consensus among experts that the drug should only be tested with a medical ethical board’s oversight.
Marie New has come under increased criticism from a medical and social standpoint for offering a drug to “cure” homosexuality and increase women’s interest in “performing the traditional child-care/housewife role.”
According to an article in the Hastings Center Bioethics Forum, Preventing Homosexuality (and Uppity Women) in the Womb?, “the use of prenatal dexamethasone treatments for CAH represents, to our knowledge, the first systematic medical effort attached to a ‘paradigm’ of attempting in utero to reduce rates of homosexuality, bisexuality, and ‘low maternal interest.’”
Dr. New and her colleagues have been researching the cause of homosexuality and suggest that homosexuality is genetic and can be cured. They specifically point to reasons that prenatal androgens have an impact on the development of sexual orientation. The authors write, “Most women were heterosexual, but the rates of bisexual and homosexual orientation were increased above controls . . . and correlated with the degree of prenatal androgenization.”
Alice Dreger, professor of clinical medical humanities and bioethics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine noted, “we do not think it is reasonable or just to use medicine to try to prevent homosexual and bisexual orientations.” Alice Dreger was part of a team of doctors who succeeded in making it mandatory for all doctors to only use dex under institutional review board oversight. At least New’s agenda is not going unchecked.
Meanwhile, Marie New not only continues research at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York, she started the Maria I. New Children’s Hormone Foundation dedicated to “children with congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH), hypertension, growth problems, and many other hormone and metabolic disorders”.
Research that purports to treat homosexuality and masculine traits in women as a disease should be heavily scrutinized. Marie New is a thorn in the side of reproductive justice and LGBTQ struggles that have long fought for the rights of all individuals to have control over their bodies and sexual orientation.