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Report: Doctors Engineering Fetuses to Prevent Intersex, Tomboy, and Lesbian Children

The Journal of Bioethical Inquiry recently published a paper detailing an increasing amount of off-label medical intervention used by U.S. doctors to prenatally engineer fetuses with steroids in order to prevent intersex, tomboy, and lesbian babies, according to a Northwestern University report compiled largely with findings obtained from Freedom of Information Act requests:

WombThe pregnant women targeted are at risk for having a child born with the condition congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH), an endocrinological condition that can result in female fetuses being born with intersex or more male-typical genitals and brains. Women genetically identified as being at risk are given dexamethasone, a synthetic steroid, off-label starting as early as week five of the first trimester to try to “normalize” the development of those fetuses, which are female and CAH-affected. Because the drug must be administered before doctors can know if the fetus is female or CAH-affected, only one in eight of those exposed are the target type of fetus.

The off-label intervention does not prevent CAH; it aims only at sex normalization. Like Diethylstilbestrol (DES) -- which is now known to have caused major fertility problems and fatal cancers among those exposed in utero -- dexamethasone is a synthetic steroid. Dexamethasone is known -- and in this case intended -- to cross the placental barrier and change fetal development. Experts estimate the glucocorticoid dose reaching the fetus is 60 to 100 times what the body would normally experience.

According to Northwestern, the report provides evidence that proponents of the intervention are interested in reducing rates of "behavioral masculinization" and the NIH has funded experiments to this end.

There is "a nearly 20 percent 'serious adverse event' rate among the children exposed in utero." Mothers have been told that it is safe but there is no scientific evidence, and the FDA cannot prevent the procedure being advertised as safe because the advertising is done by "a clinician not affiliated with the drug maker."

90 percent of those exposed to the procedure cannot benefit, and medical societies have been saying this for a decade.

According to Northwestern, "The paper is authored by Alice Dreger, professor of clinical medical humanities and bioethics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and is co-authored by Ellen Feder, associate professor of philosophy and religion at American University, and Anne Tamar-Mattis, executive director of Advocates for Informed Choice."

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  1. I am astounded that they can get the insurance to do this. Pediatricians already have extremely expensive insurance coverage such that some of them leave the field because they can not longer afford to do deliveries.

    Posted by: Charlie | Aug 6, 2012 6:05:18 PM

  2. They sound like a bunch of Witch Doctors if you ask me.

    Posted by: AngelaChanning | Aug 6, 2012 8:25:31 PM

  3. I'm all for progress. I used to live in Brookline as well, near Kennedy's birth place. Any chance to reference Hitler is always popular in that neighborhood. People thought gays would never marry. This lab stuff could be the new frontier.

    Posted by: Josh | Aug 6, 2012 10:41:26 PM

  4. I am the Mom to a CAH child & this is so far off from why parents of these children choose to take Dex or not to. We don't care about our children's sexual orientation, we care about their lives &getting them proper medical treatment when needed. CAH is complicated and involves every aspect of the patients life. Blood pressure, sugars, electrolyes, heart muscle tone, bone age, growth issues, side effects of steroids including dental issues, stomach problems, immune systems being lowered, etc. Patients often require surgery in order to correct urinary tract issues that can cause UTIs more frequently to a person whose body cannot defend itself like someone without adrenal insufficiency bc it's lack of ability to produce cortisol to handle physical stress of infection &to fight off infection. We parents fight daily so our kids can live a healthy life & the least of our concerns is our children's sexual orientation. Too many don't realize how serious medically CAH can be. There is no cure & often patients receive less than desired medical treatment. Main stream media feeds this BS but us parents fight this fight daily against the ignorance. Parents aren't trying to do anything for the unborn child except limit the amount of physical stress being put onto a CAH patient. We would trade places with our child anyday to be the one who had to have all the risks associated with this disorder. CAH is not preventable & this is only area a parent can help in making less physical issues for the unborn child. Would I take Dex? Idk, but I also would never wish the physical issues of CAH on anyone either. Goggle cortisol & see why ur body requires it & you will see why these people choose to keep their non cortisol producing child from possibly needing major reconstructive surgery. Awareness is so much more helpful than gossip, sadly then most ppl wouldn't print or read it. Don't believe CAH parents are so consumed with this, just the media and those who are being lied to. has a petition asking for protocols to address adrenal insufficiency, try signing it if u really want to help these people like my child.

    Posted by: CAH_Momma | Aug 7, 2012 4:56:54 AM

  5. After READING what this medicine and medication is suppose to do, etc., I can say that this headline is HYPE. This is about preventing a physical condition- I saw nothing about fears of 'tomboyish' or 'lesbian' behavior, instead a focus on a genetic anomaly, genital deformity, etc.? How is that... Homophobic? o_O

    Posted by: Cecilfirefox | Aug 7, 2012 11:04:09 AM

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