Republicans in New Hampshire’s state House of Representatives have proposed a bill that seeks to rescind elements of the state’s ban on conversion therapy for minors — a move that critics have lambasted as cruel and harmful to LGBTQ youth.
If the bill is signed into law, New Hampshire would become the first state in the nation to reverse — at least in part — a ban on conversion therapy.
The bill as it was originally written would have completely reversed the 2018 ban on conversion therapy, a discredited and abusive form of emotional or physical therapy that its advocates errantly claim can coerce an LGBTQ person into becoming cisgender and/or heterosexual. But although an amended version of the bill now leaves the ban in place, it changes the previous law to allow conversion therapy for minors if they agree to undergo such treatment.
The legislation, which passed a House committee last week, would presume that minors automatically consent to receive such therapy if their parents sign them up for it; if children don’t want to take part in dangerous methods of “conversion,” it is their responsibility to prove that they don’t consent to treatment. The bill also assumes that minors are capable of making such decisions.
“The amendment did nothing but hide the evil that was trying to be done,” said Rep. Joshua Query, a Democrat who opposes the bill.
In a letter that was sent to the state House of Representatives from five separate organizations — including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Hampshire and GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders — the groups noted that “the practice of conversion therapy on children has been unequivocally proven to be harmful.”
“To put the burden on children to prove that conversion therapy was not welcome undermines the state’s purpose in banning the practice – to protect children from a debunked, unsafe practice and ensure parents that their children would not be subject to such without their knowledge,” the organizations added.
Studies have shown that conversion therapy doesn’t work and can lead to devastating mental health outcomes, including increased levels of depression, anxiety and drug use. LGBTQ people who have undergone conversion therapy are also at an increased risk of dying by suicide or experiencing suicidal ideation.
In 2018, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) found that there is “no evidence to support the application of any ‘therapeutic intervention’ operating under the premise that a specific sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender expression is pathological.”
“Furthermore, based on the scientific evidence, the AACAP asserts that such ‘conversion therapies’ (or other interventions imposed with the intent of promoting a particular sexual orientation and/or gender as a preferred outcome) lack scientific credibility and clinical utility,” the organization said.
In 2015, the American College of Physicians similarly spoke out against conversion therapy.
“Available research does not support the use of reparative therapy as an effective method in the treatment of LGBT persons. Evidence shows that the practice may actually cause emotional or physical harm to LGBT individuals, particularly adolescents or young persons,” the organization said.