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Research into hormone treatment for fetuses that are intersex has been ongoing, courtesy of a female pediatric endocrinologist and a psychologist interested in the role hormones play in homosexuality. They are busily testing this hypothesis in pregnant women as we speak by injecting them with a hormone affectionately referred to as "dex."

Well, pediatric endocrinologists Drs. New and Nimkarn have indicated that this could also be a great treatment for preventing the following in the adult woman:

  1. "Low maternal instinct"
  1. Career orientation rather than baby-orientation
  1. Behavior that is not gender-normative and is "masculine"
  1. Homosexuality

It's always nice to wake up to science hell-bent on eradicating people like you because you're an "abnormal."

The Hastings article on the research states:

In a paper published just this year in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, New and her colleague, pediatric endocrinologist Saroj Nimkarn of Weill Cornell Medical College, go further, constructing low interest in babies and men – and even interest in what they consider to be men’s occupations and games – as "abnormal," and potentially preventable with prenatal dex:

"Gender-related behaviors, namely childhood play, peer association, career and leisure time preferences in adolescence and adulthood, maternalism, aggression, and sexual orientation become masculinized in 46,XX girls and women with 21OHD deficiency [CAH]. These abnormalities have been attributed to the effects of excessive prenatal androgen levels on the sexual differentiation of the brain and later on behavior." Nimkarn and New continue: "We anticipate that prenatal dexamethasone therapy will reduce the well-documented behavioral masculinization . . .

Researchers are defending this on two assumptive grounds.  One, that intersex individuals need fixing before they can reasonably consent, and two, that non-traditional "female" behavior and homosexuality are problematic.

The fact that Dr. New is a glass-ceiling busting pediatric endocrinologist (a typically male field) lends a whole new, ironic layer to the mess.  AICLegal is very proud of themselves, because they lobbied The Endocrine Society Council until they stated that the treatment is "experimental" and should only be used in conjunction with an Institutional Review Board (IRB).

However, this assurance is simply insufficient.  You can get an IRB to agree to just about anything. IRBs are dependent on the culture of your institution.  The Endocrine Society has very little information on ethics on their website, and seems to define "ethics" as "conflict of interest."

This is nothing short of frightening.  I rarely get goosebumps or feel personally at risk due to emerging bioethics policy.  This is why we must absolutely designate a certain amount of research dollars to bioethics research and oversight.  It is hard to take this kind of research at face value -- supposedly trying to improve quality of life for individuals who are born intersex -- when the very researchers themselves indicate that this could "cure" something that they personally find abnormal above and beyond the stated goal of the research.

I would also like to point out that this treatment is in human trials.  This means there are pregnant women volunteering for the hormone injections now.  Having a child who isn't gay, doesn't want to get married, isn't childfree/childless by choice, and doesn't hate pink is THAT important to some people; they would rather risk unknown side effects than have any of those outcomes.

This is not all right with me.  My choice to not have children and be career oriented, I know, is offensive to some people.  But that's my choice and it doesn't hurt other people.  These people want to take away my choice to live my life as I choose before I'm even born.  If that's not socially conservative eugenics, I don't know what is.

Originally posted to Janusdog on Wed Jun 30, 2010 at 06:50 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  This needs to be made visible (5+ / 0-)

    The better New and Corneill can hide their monstrous work, the less likely anything can be done to stop it.

    Hope is a good thing--maybe the best of things--and no good thing ever dies.

    by Gemina13 on Wed Jun 30, 2010 at 06:58:09 AM PDT

  •  If the Shoe Doesn't Fit, Change the Foot (9+ / 0-)

    Gloria Steinhem coined this phrase years ago as a response to 'curing the gay' because everyone knows Lesbians are deficient women also.

    A generation ago, perimenopausal women were placed on long-term hormonal therapy to keep them 'young'.  It only later emerged that this long-term therapy caused cancer.  It kept women young all right, they didn't live long enough to get old.

    Don't look back, something may be gaining on you. - L. "Satchel" Paige

    by arlene on Wed Jun 30, 2010 at 07:06:25 AM PDT

  •  Wow...just wow (7+ / 0-)

    I know that as science continues to progress there will be unintended consequences or that people will use discoveries in ways other than what they were designed for but again, wow.

    This will present yet another hypocrisy for the "pro-life / family values" brigade who eschew science when it goes against their wishes but embrace it when it supports them.

    Our real adversaries are not each other

    by Vita Brevis on Wed Jun 30, 2010 at 07:11:41 AM PDT

  •  Couple (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Catte Nappe

    A couple of interesting points here - people want to take away your choice before you are born, as you say, but I thought the whole pro-choice movement was that it's a woman's body and she has a right to do what she wants vis-a-vie pregnancy.  I am assuming that you are not pro-life; surely if you believe that a woman has a right to terminate (destroy) a fetus that is inside her body, she has a right to choose to expose it to some hormones if she wants?

    Most people, I think, don't know how far this sort of thing has already come.  Those with money and fertility issues can already make choices when going through IVF about sex selection and rejecting embryos with certain genes that cause things like Down's syndrome.  For all those in the gay community who want them to find the 'gay gene' so that it can be proved once and for all that it's not a choice, I wonder if they ever realized that  this could then be used to screen out embryos that carry that gene?

    Now, I may be wrong about you - you may be pro life.  But if you are not, then I would be interested in hearing from you why your position is not contradictory with pro-choice feeling that a woman has the right to choose what she wants to do with her body.

    "In his library at Simi Valley, dead Reagan waits dreaming"

    by greatdarkspot on Wed Jun 30, 2010 at 07:13:13 AM PDT

    •  You can't have it both ways (10+ / 0-)

      You cannot say, in a anti-choice stance, that a fetus is a person, and then take away their bodily autonomy in the uterus.  It is the "pro-life"/anti-gay stance here that is inconsistent.  

      And yes, the gay community is aware that genetic therapy to try and eliminate homosexuality is being pursued.

      If it's available, a woman can do it, just like she can choose the sex of her baby if she wants to.  That doesn't mean it's ethical or right or the treatment should be available if that's the reason for it being used.

    •  Downs syndrom manifests (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LivesInAShoe, sfbob

      in chromosonal anomolies which are incredibly easy to test for early in a pregnancy. The disorder guarantees lifelong disability and death before the age of 50, usually of heart ailments.

      If you think that anyone can predict your personality via a scientific test with that accuracy, and then manipulate that personality with powerful hormones while you are still in the womb without any adverse consequences, you need to put down the remote and stop watching sci fi.

      •  I (0+ / 0-)

        I don't think that.  It sounds like a stupid idea to me.
        I don't watch much sci fi - I prefer heroic fantasy.  In those societies, the issue wouldn't have arisen because of arranged marriages. :)

        "In his library at Simi Valley, dead Reagan waits dreaming"

        by greatdarkspot on Wed Jun 30, 2010 at 08:00:50 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Are these people subbing for God now? (6+ / 0-)

    This is obscene. It's the quest for a "Stepford Wife", subservient in a patriarchal society and a regular baby-making machine. What's next? Lobotomies for little girls so they'll never question anything?

    Gawd damn, this makes me angry.

    No one ever died from laughing too often

    by googie on Wed Jun 30, 2010 at 07:17:06 AM PDT

  •  Holy crap (13+ / 0-)

    I'm just sitting here blinking, and "Holy crap" is the only coherent thought I can muster.

    They're talking about me.

    It wasn't until I was in my 30's that I began to even believe that most women really do want children, have maternal instincts, and love being around babies.  Swear to FSM, I always thought it was one of those convenient and well-accepted fictions.  I didn't think there was any such thing as a "maternal instinct."

    The entire idea is so completely alien to me that I can't even imagine what it could feel like.  To like kids.  To want kids.  

    It's like trying to imagine wanting a root canal.

    There's nothing wrong with me.  I'm happy, successful, have a great relationship with my partner, and I rescue animals.  I'm just at one extreme end of the maternal-instinct Bell curve.  But these people want me eliminated.

    "He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression." -Thomas Paine

    by sierrak9s on Wed Jun 30, 2010 at 07:21:25 AM PDT

    •  Yes. (8+ / 0-)

      Me too.  It is frightening, to say the least.

      They are talking about the new Prime Minister of Australia as well.

    •  Probably (0+ / 0-)

      You probably feel the same way about them.  If you could inject a hormone to help prevent your baby from being a bible-thumping fundy, I'll bed you'd consider it.  I mean, not that you are having kids, but if you were.
      Just so I'm clear, I do not think there is anything wrong with a woman (or man) not wanting kids and I certainly wouldn't try to alter any kids I might have in such a way.  Honestly, I think society and upbringing affect such choices a lot more than genetics ever will.

      "In his library at Simi Valley, dead Reagan waits dreaming"

      by greatdarkspot on Wed Jun 30, 2010 at 07:25:46 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Amen. (8+ / 0-)

      I do not have children.  By choice.  

      Now somebody thinks that I need "fixed" to meet their expectations of what I should be, and where my priorities should lie.

      Have they developed a similar treatment for my husband, who also made a very informed and conscious decision not to be a father?  Is he not "fraternal" enough for them?  Or is it only women that need "fixed?"

      I'm having the same reaction as you.

      Are they fucking serious?

      My dogs think triciawyse is smart and pretty. They think I'm a strange, frumpy woman wth limitless snacks.

      by martydd on Wed Jun 30, 2010 at 07:39:11 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  No, just you. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        millwood, speak2me, googie

        Speaking from experience, very often men are expected to not want babies, but to "give in" when women lobby for them.  Then they're expected to love them -- but that love can look like working a lot to support the family financially.

        His mental state never really enters into it.

        •  True. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          googie

          So are they going to come up with a treatment to make men want to work harder, and provide more?  So they too can be more normal?

          I'm guessing probably not.

          My dogs think triciawyse is smart and pretty. They think I'm a strange, frumpy woman wth limitless snacks.

          by martydd on Wed Jun 30, 2010 at 08:22:10 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Same here. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        martydd, sierrak9s

        I don't want kids.  I hate dresses.  I ride a motorcycle.  I prefer sports to Oprah.  

        Thing is, I'm also perfectly happy.  But I guess they've got a big picture of me in their lab, with a caption:  "Womanhood.  Ur doin' it rong."

        Well, fuck 'em.

        I'd like to do research on people like these doctors, to see if there's some brain chemical that makes them come up with weird definitions of "abnormal."

        •  Heh. I like that caption. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          kcc

          Your first line all applies to me, except the motorcycle.  My partner's first "real" job was as an ambulance driver.  Her first fatality was a motorcycle accident.

          I would love to ride a motorcycle, but it has been forbidden.

          "He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression." -Thomas Paine

          by sierrak9s on Wed Jun 30, 2010 at 11:34:12 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  No (5+ / 0-)

      They don't want you eliminated, they just want you more normative.

      The worst of it is that if your mother had had the treatment you would probably agree it was a good thing.  That is evil.  If there was not some species advantage to having non normative people then evolution would probably have taken care of the "problem".

      Best Wishes, Demena Left/Right: -8.38; Libertarian/Authoritarian: -6.36

      by Demena on Wed Jun 30, 2010 at 07:45:36 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Ditto for me! (4+ / 0-)

      I'm 36, have my Ph.D. in speech-language pathology, work with multiply involved children clinically & low-income children in a research capacity, and rescue animals with special needs.

      I see what goes wrong with children every day. It's my job. I see the effects of poverty on children every single day. It's my job. Just yesterday, my students conducted an evaluation on a 3 1/2 year old with Shaken Baby Syndrome.

      I see my role as helping raise children up rather than raising children.

      I can't understand why someone else thinks that my choices are threatening to them.

  •  The basic premise in the movie Serenity (9+ / 0-)

    is that in trying to "make people better for their own good" according to the definitions of the rich and powerful leads to tragic consequences. In that piece it is the death of millions. In this case they are going from a treatment to prevent abnormal genital development and moving beyond to psychological development and deciding what is or is not "normal". Corticosteroids like this dexamethasone have a plethora of effects and the long term effect on kids born after dex exposure in utero is really not known. Animal studies suggest some scary effects on blood-brain barrier permeability and the propensity to develop Type II diabetes among other effects.

    If you love Wall Street more than you love America you are a Republican politician.

    by OHdog on Wed Jun 30, 2010 at 07:24:46 AM PDT

    •  well exactly (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      OHdog, Cassandra Waites, googie

      not to mention that to assume we know everything this treatment may cause is hubris beyond belief.

      w.t.f.

      the blood brain barrier?  wtfwtfwtf.

      Corticosteroids like this dexamethasone have a plethora of effects and the long term effect on kids born after dex exposure in utero is really not known. Animal studies suggest some scary effects on blood-brain barrier permeability and the propensity to develop Type II diabetes among other effects.

      300 college hours; three degrees; no job. Seeking graphics arts, video editing job. Email at home page.

      by LivesInAShoe on Wed Jun 30, 2010 at 07:39:48 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  that's personality engineering right there (6+ / 0-)

    and moral questions aside, I think this is about as likely to succeed as introducing mongooses to Hawaii or feral cats to australia. They're trying to manipulate a system they don't fully understand.

  •  w.t.f. (6+ / 0-)

    and here i thought i had heard it all.  who in the world would allow themselves to be injected with a hormone to prevent a "problem" that is not really a problem and in fact may not even exist?

    w.t.f.

    i mean really.  what pregnant woman would allow herself and her fetus to become experimental animals?  short of locking a woman up and taking away her money, clothes, and any means of communication  so she can't escape, and then doing what you will to her.....

    who in the world would consent to this?

    300 college hours; three degrees; no job. Seeking graphics arts, video editing job. Email at home page.

    by LivesInAShoe on Wed Jun 30, 2010 at 07:36:56 AM PDT

  •  Thalidomide birth defects.... eom (4+ / 0-)

    No one ever died from laughing too often

    by googie on Wed Jun 30, 2010 at 07:47:41 AM PDT

  •  The study is both disgusting and offensive (5+ / 0-)

    It's offensive to both lesbian mothers and women who don't wish to have children.  

    But the premises of the study are also wrong.  Besides the fact that none of the so called "abnormal" behavior is a problem, the scientists seem to be basing their study on stereotypes.  The idea that all lesbians act in ways that are masculine or that all gay men act in ways that are effeminate has been long disproven.  Therefore the study that seeks to eliminate masculine traits from women in order to make them straight seems to be even more off base than it already is.  How do you make the lesbian prom queen more feminine?  How do you make the gay waterpolo team captain more masculine?  

    Although I don't think any fruit will be born out of these studies (I think they're similar to all the old "scientific" studies that demonstrated the intellectual inferiority of blacks and Latinos and Asians by measuring crainum diameters among other things), there is good reason to be fearful.  That's because this has been done before......scientists and doctors claiming ways to degay individuals through harsh medical treatments.  These treatments didn't work of course.  They had long lasting negative impacts of course.  This whole hormone therapy of course is merely taking the electro-shock therapy and moving it into the prenatal dimension.

    Of course, there is one problem with all this for the right wingers.  Right wingers hate and despise gay people but this sort of thing really splits them in their Nazi-style quest to eradicate gay people.  The religious right has been claiming that being gay is a choice and that gays can become straight if they simply pray enough to Jesus.  To that degree, they set up bible camps and prayer circles and other torturous methods to try and convince gays and lesbians to "pray away the gay."  And of course they make up all these lines about "unrepentant homosexual conduct."  These right wing scientists are looking to eradicate gays as well but they're basically saying that being gay is part of the normal human process.  That people don't choose to be gay, that their parents can make the choice by using hormone therapies.  

    While both groups of homophobes are evil (and I don't use that term lightly), it's nice that they're divided.  

  •  As a childfree bisexual woman (4+ / 0-)

    who leans heavily towards the women side of the scale, naturally I think this is pretty appalling.

    But you know what?  I don't believe for a second that this stupid "dex" hormone will have the effect that they think it will.  So while the intention is appalling, it won't work.

    I'm more concerned about the fact that these poor babies are going to be born to parents who are willing to go to such lengths to make them "turn out right."  Their upbringing is likely to cause a lot of psychological and emotional damage.

  •  Messng with Mother Nature (4+ / 0-)

    Even when we can, should we? Isn't that the root of most medical (and scientific) ethical debate.

    The treatment is intended to address physical genital anomolies that would otherwise require surgery. That would seem to be a good thing. But then there are the unintended consequences. The treatment begins early in pregnancy, before it is known if the fetus will be a boy or girl, and is discontinued for those who are boys. What might be the longer term effects on boys.

    Beyond that, of course, the real ethical morass. Given that in addition to correcting the physical problem this treatment may also affect more "pyschological" elements of sexual development, are there parents who would like to do something like this to assure their girl children are more traditionally "feminine", or "girly"? No doubt. Are there doctors who would agree to provide such treatment for that reason alone? Probably.

    "I want to apologize for that misconstrued misconstruction." Rep Joe Barton

    by Catte Nappe on Wed Jun 30, 2010 at 09:01:03 AM PDT

  •  Some additional useful reading (10+ / 0-)

    This lengthy Time article covers the issue pretty thoroughly, and is easy to understand for us lay-men. Also encouraging, there is substantial debate about the ethics and necessity of the whole thing

    Critics suspect that Mount Sinai's New, who has long championed prenatal dex and bills it as safe on her foundation website, has gamed the system. In a letter dated Feb. 2, 2010, a group of 36 bioethicists, including Alice Dreger, a professor of bioethics at Northwestern University, asked the FDA and the federal Office for Human Research Protections to investigate New's practices; the authors contend that the doctor has conducted follow-up studies on prenatal dex patients without receiving IRB approval for treatment trials. Dreger says she has also asked Weill Cornell Medical College, where New previously worked, and Mount Sinai Medical Center to investigate the matter.

    "I want to apologize for that misconstrued misconstruction." Rep Joe Barton

    by Catte Nappe on Wed Jun 30, 2010 at 09:09:30 AM PDT

  •  Fascinating. (0+ / 0-)

    How much research was done before the human trials were begun?
    How much is known about possible side effects of Dex, especially prenatal injections?
    How well were the potential parents warned about possible side effects, or toxicity?
    How well were the proposals that led to this study considered by a bioethics board?

    All useful questions.

    My life is an open book, and I want a rewrite!

    by trumpeter on Wed Jun 30, 2010 at 10:32:22 AM PDT

    •  Ack - forgot one. (0+ / 0-)

      How much is known about the long-term effects of this treatment?

      Before human testing was begun, ALL of these should have good answers.

      "Paging Dr. Frankenstein..."

      My life is an open book, and I want a rewrite!

      by trumpeter on Wed Jun 30, 2010 at 10:40:16 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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