HHS Nominee Dr. Rachel Levine Won’t Say if Parents Can Refuse Child’s Gender Transitioning

Levine, a biological male who identifies as transgender female, is currently Pennsylvania’s health secretary.

Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine speaking at a virtual press conference for the Pennsylvania Department of Health March 20, 2020.
Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine speaking at a virtual press conference for the Pennsylvania Department of Health March 20, 2020. (photo: PHD / CC BY 2.0)

WASHINGTON — A nominee for assistant health secretary on Thursday wouldn’t say if government officials can intervene when parents refuse their child’s gender transitioning.

Dr. Rachel Levine, President Biden’s nominee for assistant secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), appeared before members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Thursday for a confirmation hearing. Levine, a biological male who identifies as transgender female, is currently Pennsylvania’s health secretary.

When pressed by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., on the matter of minors being allowed to transition genders, Levine would not directly answer his questions.

“Do you support the government intervening to override the parent’s consent to give a child puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and/or amputation surgery of breasts and genitalia?” Paul asked Levine. He stated his “alarm” that Levine was not directly answering his questions.

Levine responded that “transgender medicine is a very complex and nuanced field,” and told Paul “if confirmed to the position of assistant secretary of health, I would certainly be pleased to come to your office and to talk to you and your staff about the standards of care and the complexity of this field.”

Roger Severino, the former head of the HHS civil rights office, stated that Levine’s answer manifested “ideology” rather than “science.”

“I met with Dr. Levine while at HHS and asked a simple question. ‘What does it mean to be male or female?’ Much like @RandPaul, I couldn't get an answer,” Severino tweeted. “Science is about clarity and openness to review while ideology is about subjectivity backed by coercion of those who disagree.”

Severino is currently a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC), and directs the center’s HHS Accountability Project.

As Pennsylvania’s health secretary, Levine reportedly supported allowing minors to start hormone therapy, but only with their parents’ consent.

In a 2017 address at Franklin & Marshall College on transgender medicine, the health secretary said that teenagers could start taking puberty blockers at the start of puberty, and with the consent of parents, a therapist, and a physician.

For 14-16 year-olds, they could take cross-gender hormones with a gradual dosage increase, Levine said, while most transgender surgeries take place after the age of 18.

Regarding homeless youth who identify as LGBT, Levine said they do not have the “luxury” of protocols, so the transition process could be “accelerated” for them.

Levine also opposed religious exemptions to the HHS contraceptive mandate that were granted to the Little Sisters of the Poor. Levine called the exemptions “immoral and unethical.”

On Thursday, Paul repeatedly questioned Levine on the matter of children transitioning genders.

“Dr. Levine, do you believe that minors are capable of making such a life-changing decision as changing one’s sex?” Paul asked.

Levine said that “transgender medicine is a very complex and nuanced field, with robust research and standards of care that have been developed.”

Paul said in response that he was “alarmed” that Levine was “not absolutely willing to say minors shouldn’t be making decisions to amputate their breasts, or to amputate their genitalia.”

“I’m alarmed that you won’t say with certainty that minors should not have the ability to make the decision to take hormones that will affect them for the rest of their life,” he said.

Roger Severino speaks at a news conference at the Department of Health and Human Services Jan. 18, 2018, in Washington, DC.

Defending Conscience Rights in Healthcare with Roger Severino (Episode 4)

Healthcare affects every American - whether we are ill or healthy, parents or caretakers for aging relatives, or those who work as medical professionals. Many current issues related to healthcare services and medical procedures implicate religious freedom and conscience rights. Roger Severino is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and director of the Center’s new HHS Accountability Project. He joins Andrea Picciotti-Bayer of the Conscience Project and Matthew Bunson, EWTN News’ executive editor, to discuss the threats to this important civil right and the protections under the law for conscience in healthcare