Conversion therapy: New Jersey ban due to ‘critical health risks’

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Whether or not people can change their sexual orientation is one of the fundamental questions that surrounds the question of legitimacy of conversion therapy. Put simply, supporters of the therapy say that if it is possible to change your sexual orientation, then there are legitimate reasons to continue to develop and test this therapy. In contrast, those who are against conversion therapy highlight that the therapy is harmful and it reinforces the erroneous belief that homosexuality is a disorder that needs to be treated and/or cured.

As early as 1983, many influential and reputable professional bodies, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, issued statements highlighting that there is no robust credible and scientific evidence to support the use of conversion therapy, and that it should be avoided as it may cause harm. Although there are a number of countries, such as Australia, that still allow the use of conversion therapy, two states in the US, California and New Jersey, have now banned its use. California was the first state to do this and the Governor of New Jersey has now also signed legislation, Assembly Bill Number A3371, to ban conversion therapy for those under 18 years of age.

The New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie, issued a statement as he signed the legislation banning gay conversion therapy for minors into law. He said: “At the outset of this debate, I expressed my concerns about government limiting parental choice on the care and treatment of their own children. I still have those concerns. Government should tread carefully into this area and I do so here reluctantly. I have scrutinized this piece of legislation with that concern in mind.

“However, I also believe that on issues of medical treatment for children we must look to experts in the field to determine the relative risks and rewards. The American Psychological Association has found that efforts to change sexual orientation can pose critical health risks including, but not limited to, depression, substance abuse, social withdrawal, decreased self-esteem and suicidal thoughts.

“I believe that exposing children to these health risks without clear evidence of benefits that outweigh these serious risks is not appropriate. Based upon this analysis, I sign this bill into law.”

The bill relates only to licensed health professionals and not religious groups.

References

American Academy of Pediatrics. Policy Statement: Homosexuality and Adolescence. Pediatrics, 1983;92:631-634.

In this video below you can listen to some of the statements shared in New Jersey that helped the Assembly Panel pass the legislation banning conversion therapy for minors in New Jersey.

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