HHS Says It Has Only Two Pages Of Scientific Evidence Backing Its Support For “Gender-Affirming Care”

Watchdog says Rachel Levine's failure to defend radical gender views explains "why trust in government health officials has evaporated."
HARRISBURG, PA,- MAY 16: Rachel Levine, MD, physician general for the state of Pennsylvania, dines with her mother Lillian Levine, in Harrisburg, PA, on May 16, 2016. Levine is transgender and has a close relationship with her mother. (Photo by Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The Department of Health and Human Services said it has only two pages of literature supporting Assistant Secretary Rachel Levine’s assessment that “gender-affirming care” is “necessary” for transgender youth, prompting allegations that the transgender-identifying Biden administration official has violated the Department’s scientific integrity policies by baselessly claiming it’s settled science.

Protect the Public’s Trust (PPT), a nonprofit watchdog, filed a Freedom of Information Act request for “records of scientific evidence, studies, and/or data to support the Assistant Secretary’s claim that ‘gender-affirming care is medically necessary, safe, and effective for trans and non-binary youth,'” as well as for “records of surveys of medical professionals regarding the value and importance of ‘gender-affirming care’ for minor children.”

In response, HHS produced only a single document—a two-page PDF called “Gender-Affirming Care and Young People.” The document is also on HHS’ website and is not a scientific study, but rather a brochure that declares that “research demonstrates that gender-affirming care improves the mental health and overall well-being of gender-diverse children.”

It supports the statement with a footnote to a single study that showed that transgender-identifying young people were slightly less suicidal when receiving treatment — 51% who were receiving such care were suicidal, slightly lower than the 62% who weren’t receiving hormones but wanted them. The HHS document also states that puberty blockers are reversible and hormone therapy is partially reversible.

HHS claimed that Levine — a man who believes he is a woman — made no other mentions of “gender-affirming care” in his emails, PPT said. 

PPT on Tuesday wrote to the HHS Inspector General requesting that the office open an investigation, saying that Levine is violating the Department’s scientific integrity policies by making politically-motivated declarations and misrepresenting scientific evidence. 

“This suggests that Assistant Secretary Levine has constantly, continually, ‘everywhere I go,’ made unequivocal statements regarding the medical necessity, safety, and effectiveness of gender-affirming care based entirely upon a single two-page document,” the letter said. 

The complaint, obtained exclusively by The Daily Wire, says that government officials using their stature as science officials to make politically motivated statements and casting them as irrefutable science risks a further “loss of trust” in scientific institutions that would be “cataclysmic.”

“When asked for ‘records of scientific evidence, studies, and/or data’ and for ‘records of surveys of medical professionals’ to support these claims, HHS was able to provide only a single information sheet – essentially a piece of marketing material with cherry-picked data and agenda-driven assertions,” the complaint said. “This is the opposite of science and evidence-based policymaking and flies in the face of the agency’s pledge of ‘adherence to professional practices, ethical behavior, and the principles of honesty and objectivity when conducting, managing, using the results of, and communicating about science and scientific activities.'”

Michael Chamberlain, the group’s director, said the agency’s failure to provide evidence for its claims explains “why trust in government health officials has evaporated.”

“When we asked HHS to provide this data, all they offered was a single two-page information sheet with links to cherry-picked, often activist-generated research to justify irreversible and possibly dangerous measures,” Chamberlain told The Daily Wire. “Meanwhile, European health services are actively withdrawing their support for these therapies. Even in the face of this, the Assistant Secretary accuses skeptics of ideological motives.”

Levine has regularly used his role as a science official to declare that “the treatment options for gender-affirming care for transgender youth really are evidence-based,” and opposition to it is “unconscionable.” 

“Gender-affirming care for transgender youth is essential,” he told Reuters.

“There is no argument among medical professionals—pediatricians, pediatric endocrinologists, adolescent medicine, physicians, adolescent psychiatrists, psychologists, et cetera—about the value and the importance of gender-affirming care,” Levine told NPR. The HHS website similarly hides behind “science,” saying, “At HHS, we listen to medical experts and doctors, and they agree with us, that access to affirming care for transgender youth is essential.”

Such assertions not only ignore a growing body of scientific literature and experts, but declare that they do not exist, PPT said.  

“These statements not only do not acknowledge the contrary evidence, they assert that there is none,” the group argues. “In spite of voluminous scientific evidence from around the world, as well as a growing number of policy decisions in other countries that run in the opposite direction, Adm. Levine has consistently made assertions indicating there is no data, studies, or evidence that contradicts or does not support these statements. The Assistant Secretary has also not only ignored the burgeoning controversy regarding the use of these treatments for minors, but has declared that it simply does not exist, that there is not a modicum of controversy in the scientific or medical communities regarding these treatments.”

“In fact, the opposite appears to be true. There appears to be little evidence in support of the statements issued by Adm. Levine. HHS was provided the opportunity to present the evidence upon which these statements are based. Instead of producing reams of studies, data, and evidence, the agency was unable to deliver anything but a single two-page information sheet, with a few cherry-picked studies. It is difficult to imagine a more clear-cut case of an official violating HHS’s scientific integrity policies and undermining the state of science in pursuit of a controversial policy agenda.”

PPT pointed the Inspector General to a significant volume of information rebutting the claim that there “is no argument among medical professionals” about gender transitioning.

The New York Times this month highlighted children who said they were rushed into a gender transition and regretted it, and therapists who are now skeptical of an “affirming” model. Britain closed its transgender clinic and warned doctors that many youth are just going through a phase. Norway, Finland, and Sweden also found a lack of evidence that the benefits of hormones, puberty blockers, and surgeries outweigh the risks.

The authors of a landmark 2019 study that was used to support the idea that gender transitions lead to mental stability later corrected their study, stating that their data “demonstrated no advantage of surgery in relation to subsequent mood or anxiety disorder-related health care visits.”

To the contrary, the authors acknowledged, “individuals diagnosed with gender incongruence who had received gender-affirming surgery were more likely to be treated for anxiety disorders compared with individuals diagnosed with gender incongruence who had not received gender-affirming surgery.”

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The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  HHS Says It Has Only Two Pages Of Scientific Evidence Backing Its Support For “Gender-Affirming Care”