Los Angeles Times: Medical Treatment Carries Possible Side Effect of Limiting Homosexuality
Each year in the United States, perhaps a few dozen pregnant women learn they are carrying a fetus at risk for a rare disorder known as congenital adrenal hyperplasia. The condition causes an accumulation of male hormones and can, in females, lead to genitals so masculinized that it can be difficult at birth to determine the baby’s gender.
A hormonal treatment to prevent ambiguous genitalia can now be offered to women who may be carrying such infants. It’s not without health risks, but to its critics those are of small consequence compared with this notable side effect: The treatment might reduce the likelihood that a female with the condition will be homosexual. Further, it seems to increase the chances that she will have what are considered more feminine behavioral traits.
That such a treatment would ever be considered, even to prevent genital abnormalities, has outraged gay and lesbian groups, troubled some doctors and fueled bioethicists’ debate about the nature of human sexuality.
The treatment is a step toward “engineering in the womb for sexual orientation,” said Alice Dreger, a professor of clinical medical humanities and bioethics at Northwestern University and an outspoken opponent of the treatment.
The ability to chemically steer a child’s sexual orientation has become increasingly possible in recent years, with evidence building that homosexuality has biological roots and with advances in the treatment of babies in utero. Prenatal treatment for congenital adrenal hyperplasia is the first to test — unintentionally or not — that potential.
I have no problem with gay people. None whatsoever. What I do have a problem with, however, is scientists going overboard and finding themselves in a position in which they’re essentially playing God, especially when the benefits are theoretical or marginally beneficial. That was the problem I had with the Large Hadron Collider, and that’s the problem I have here.
As I understand it, so long as the hyperplasia is recognized, treatment can allow for those affected to lead normal lives — with the exception, of course, of the physical abnormalities that usually stay concealed under pants (or leather chaps, as it were). So this isn’t the case where we’re tweaking life in the womb for the purpose of saving lives. This is superficial stuff.
That’s the way I look at it. I’m curious about you. Discuss.