by Dan Savage
on Fri, Jul 2, 2010 at 2:41 PM
Maria Bustillos at The Awl—like Hanna Rosin at Slate—has her head up her ass. In a post today, Bustillos asserts that Dr. Maria New isn't doing what Dr. New has admitted to doing: treating pregnant women with a potentially dangerous hormone in order to prevent their lesbianism.
Alice Dreger demolishes Bustillos in an email:
Here's the thing: It's obvious from New's writing (see the quotes in our Bioethics Forum post) and speaking (see the quote in the Bioethics Forum post about "machinery for motherhood") that she lumps together all of these things—ambiguous genitalia, lesbianism, interest in trucks and science—as being "abnormalities" that should/can be prevented either with dex, or else with genital surgeries if the dex didn't get there in time.
We've said all along (including in the BF post) that most docs are not interested in using this drug for prevention of lesbianism, etc. Most are interested in preventing ambiguous genitalia. We've also said that there is one legitimate medical problem that dex could prevent, namely development of a confluence of the urethra and vagina, which can result in infections and problems with intercourse later.
So what's the problem? This is a very risky drug that should not be used outside of clinical trials according to nearly every medical expert except New. Some docs, like Walter Miller of UCSF, have said it should never be used for this because too many unaffected fetuses (7/8) are being hit with the risky drug, since it has to be given before docs can know if the fetus is a female with CAH.
Miller, Chief of Endocrinology at UCSF, gave me permission to quote him: "It seems to me that the main point of prenatal [dex] therapy is to allay parental anxiety. In that construct, one must question the ethics of using the fetus as a reagent to treat the parent, especially when the risks are non-trivial."
But New has apparently been treating hundreds of pregnant women outside clinical trials without, apparently, telling women this is an experimental drug. On top of that, when New says that she thinks lesbianism, low maternal interest, and a female having interest in "men's" hobbies and occupations are "abnormalities" (which she does) potentially preventable with this drug (which she does), Houston, we have a problem. That's a serious abuse of medicine, and an affront to the rights of all women, but especially the rights of lesbian and bi women.
Sorry, Maria, but the record clearly demonstrates that this doctor—Maria New—really is using a drug on pregnant women to prevent lesbianism, a drug that most doctors don't think should be administered to any pregnant woman at all, regardless of their fetuses risks for CAH.