Dr. Maria New, a pediatric endocrinologist of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Florida International University, and psychologist Heino F. L. Meyer-Bahlburg of Columbia University, are once again in the news with their controversial experiments on female fetuses with the experimental and dangerous drug dexamethasone (DEX) after Dr. Alice Dreger, professor of clinical medical humanities and bioethics in Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, published a new report on the matter.
By treating pregnant women with DEX, Dr. New and Meyes-Bahlburg are hoping to prevent the effects of congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH), a condition that leads to an excess of prenatal androgens and results in the masculinization of the genitals. CAH is a condition whose effects range anywhere from benign clitoral enlargement to a number of metabolic problems to serious, life-threatening deformations of the genitals that must be surgically corrected. As DEX might only mitigate the underlying disease’s effects, but can’t cure it, life-long therapy is required. This is the stuff most researchers who work with the drug are interested in. Dr. New and several colleagues, however, are also interested in something entirely different.
Studies have shown that females with CAH, in comparison to non-CAH females, have increased rates of behaviors more typical of men, tend to be less interested in motherhood as adults and are more likely to grow up to be bisexual or lesbian. And this is what bothers Dr. New and a bunch of others.
I’m going to quote New and her colleagues here, because nobody could convey their intentions clearer than they themselves. In a 2010 article that New and a colleague published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, they put it this way:
“Without prenatal therapy, masculinization of external genitalia in females is potentially devastating. It carries the risk of wrong sex assignment at birth, difficult reconstructive surgery, and subsequent long-term effects on quality of life. Gender-related behaviors, namely childhood play, peer association, career and leisure time preferences in adolescence and adulthood, maternalism [interest in being a mother], aggression, and sexual orientation become masculinized in 46,XX girls and women with 21HOD deficiency. … Genital sensitivity impairment and difficulties in sexual function in women who underwent genitoplasty early in life have likewise been reported. We anticipate that prenatal dexamethasone therapy will reduce the well-documented behavioral masculinization and difficulties related to reconstructive surgeries.” (Nimkarn and New 2010a, 9)
So, according to New, “proper” women must be interested in Barbies, shouldn’t want to play with boys (And god save her from soccer!), should become kindergartners – or better yet, exclusively stay-at-home moms -, should have sexual interest in only men, be submissive and want a bunch of babies.
New also told a group of parents of children with CAH that the treatment aims for the restoration of the
“[…] normal female appearance which would be compatible with her parents presenting her as a girl, with her eventually becoming somebody’s wife, and having normal sexual development, and becoming a mother. And she has all the machinery for motherhood, and therefore nothing should stop that, if we can repair her surgically and help her psychologically to continue to grow and develop as a girl.” (New 2001a)
I have to agree with her on that one: lesbianism really isn’t conductive to becoming a man’s wife and churning out his babies like a machine. As nothing should stop heteronormativity from claiming every single female on this planet, lesbianism and bisexuality must be eliminated.
In 1999 New’s main collaborator Meyer-Bahlburg said:
“CAH women as a group have a lower interest than controls in getting married and performing the traditional child-care/housewife role. As children, they show an unusually low interest in engaging in maternal play with baby dolls, and their interest in caring for infants, the frequency of daydreams or fantasies of pregnancy and motherhood, or the expressed wish of experiencing pregnancy and having children of their own appear to be relatively low in all age groups.” (Meyer-Bahlburg 1999, 1845–1846)
Meyer-Bahlburg was further interested in whether “long term follow-up studies of the behavioral outcome will show whether [prenatal] dexamethasone treatment also prevents the effects of prenatal androgens on brain and behavior”.
Isn’t it heart-warming how their main concern lies with the prevention of behavioral “masculinization”? Well, at least they’re being honest.
Or maybe not. Another issue is that New hasn’t been honest to mothers about the drug DEX and that follow-up studies – where existent at all – are shoddy at best. As Dreger et al. document, DEX has been advertised by them to patients in misleading ways and promoted for the medically illegitimate prevention of non-heterosexuality and tomboyism. Furthermore, the drug is supposed to be administered under Institutional Review Board (IRB) guidelines, which would have put individuals under clinical trial status. Notice “would have”. New also hasn’t bothered informing her patients of the experimental and controversial nature of this drug, thus they weren’t even able to give informed consent.
You can access the complete report with all its seriously shocking facts for free here: Prenatal Dexamethasone for Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia – An Ethics Canary in the Modern Medical Mine by Alice Dreger, Ellen K. Feder, and Anne Tamar-Mattis
Preventing Homosexuality (and Uppity Women) in the Womb? by Alice Dreger, Ellen K. Feder, Anne Tamar-Mattis
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