Saturday, September 04, 2010

The Anti-Lesbian Drug?

Newsweek recently published an article entitled The Anti-Lesbian Drug concerning the use of a steroid named dexamethasome by doctors to prevent female fetuses from developing congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH). With this provocative headline, the author Sharon Begley) writes,

Mike Kemp / Corbis

Genetic engineers, move over: the latest scheme for creating children to a parent’s specifications requires no DNA tinkering, but merely giving mom a steroid while she’s pregnant, and presto—no chance that her daughters will be lesbians or (worse?) ‘uppity.’

Or so one might guess from the storm brewing over the prenatal use of that steroid, called dexamethasone. In February, bioethicist Alice Dreger of Northwestern University and two colleagues blew the whistle on the controversial practice of giving pregnant women dexamethasone to keep the female fetuses they are carrying from developing ambiguous genitalia. read more

While there is a need for bioethics watchdog centres such as The Hasting Center's Bioethics Forum, there is also a need to be careful while examining the evidence or the lack of it. Alice Dreger, Ellen K. Feder, Anne Tamar-Mattis (06/29/2010) posted Preventing Homosexuality (and Uppity Women) in the Womb? , the article which was picked up by Newsweek.

While everyone has been busy watching geneticists at the frontier of the brave new world, none of us seem to have noticed what some pediatricians are up to. Perhaps it is because so many people are fascinated by the idea of a “gay gene” that prenatal “lesbian hormones” have slipped past public scrutiny. In any case, we think Nimkarn and New’s “paradigm for prenatal diagnosis and treatment” suggests a reason why activists for gay and lesbian rights should be wary of believing that claims for the innateness of homosexuality will lead to liberation. Evidence that homosexual orientation is inborn could, instead, very well lead to new means of pathologization and prevention, as it seems to be in the case we’ve been tracking.

Needless to say, we do not think it reasonable or just to use medicine to try to prevent homosexual and bisexual orientations. Nor do we think it reasonable to use medicine to prevent uppity women, like the sort who might raise just these kinds of alarms. Consider that our declaration of our conflict of interest.

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