IntroductionThe Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Actof 2017, is a bill that was introduced to the House of Representatives on the25thof April in 2017 with its companion S.
928 into the Senate. Ifenacted, the bill would ban the commercial practice of conversion therapy andlabel it as fraud (H. R. 2119, 2017). Mr. Ted Lieu, a democratic representativeof California, created the bill as an amendment to the Federal Trade CommissionAct in order to categorize conversion therapy and any advertisement of suchtherapies as fraudulent, which would permit the enforcement of federal andcivil litigation against advertisers and practitioners (Washington 2017). MajorProponents of the bill include LGBTQ support groups, democratic staterepresentatives, medical and mental health organizations, and the general LGBTQpopulation.
The opponents of the bill include orthodox religious organizationsand followers, practitioners and advertisers of conversion therapy, supportersof religious freedom, and secular organizations arguing the effectiveness ofconversion therapy. H. R. 2119 was submitted to the House ofRepresentatives and then referred to the House Committee on Energy andCommerce, who referred it to the Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and ConsumerProtection where it currently remains active. If signed and passed as a federalact, the Federal Trade Commission, state general assembly members, and otherstate officials would be able to pursue civil action lawsuits in order toprotect the interest of citizens. The Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act assertsthat conversion therapy is ineffective and harmful to members of the lesbian,gay, bisexual, transsexual, and queer community and that population theirparents must be protected from such acts of fraud.
(H. R. 2119, 2017).
Current Social Problem ContextThe Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Actdetailed several findings in the legislation that outline the context of thesocial problem; however, in order to understand interpretations of the socialproblem, it is first important to understand term “conversion therapy” as it isdefined within the bill. H. R. 2119 (2017) defines conversion therapy as anypractice in which a person acquires financial payment for treatment thatattempts to alter a person’s sexual preferences or sex identity. The billdescribed this as, “another individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity,including efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate orreduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of thesame gender” (§ 3, 1.
A). This definition does not include any practices thataim to support individuals within the LGBTQ community and validate theirhardships, it exclusively pertains to programs that seek to make changes to aperson’s identity and characteristics as they are labeled above (H.R.
2119,2017). The underlyingsocial problem that the Therapeutic Fraud Act of 2017 seeks to ameliorate isthat vulnerable people are being defrauded by the practice and advertisement ofconversion therapy. Thispractice has been labeled by many medical organizations in the Just the FactsCoalition to be explicitly dangerous and harmful to people and have beenreported to cause anxiety, depression, self-harm, and isolation between familymembers.
In the 2008 report, the coalition states that the premise ofconversion therapy efforts is based on pathological conceptualization ofhomosexuality. EI1 They argue that conversion therapyadvocates present the practice as a cure for an illness that does not existstating: “all other major health professional organizations have supported theAmerican Psychological Association in its declassification of homosexuality asa mental disorder in 1973” (P. 5).
The report advises people not to participatein conversion and reparative practices because being bisexual or homosexual isnot unhealthy or abnormal in any way (Just the Facts Coalition, 2008). While the majority of the medicalcommunity recognize same-sex discrimination as a scientifically significantexplanation for heightened levels of anxiety and depression (Just the factsCoalition, 2008) opponents of the bill argue otherwise. According to theAlliance for Therapeutic Choice and Scientific Integrity and the NationalAssociation for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), the linkbetween discrimination and internalized homophobia is unclear and thatunhealthy mental health outcomes may instead be an inherent characteristic ofbeing homosexual. NARTH denies the World Medical Association’s implication thatconversion therapies are discriminatory and harmful in nature, claims there isno scientific evidence that proves the harmfulness of such therapies, andfurther suggests that such claims are based on “ideological and not scientificgrounds” (Rosik, 2013). The underlying issue disputed between opponents and proponentsof the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act then do not only surround argumentsabout the effectiveness and harmfulness of conversion therapy, but also includedebates about social determinants of homosexuality and if such identities areinherently pathological. Clearly stated, opponents may argue that homosexuality ispathological and/or a choice that can be changed; whereas, proponents suggestthat homosexuality is not a choice and identifying as LGBT is not abnormal,unhealthy, or changeable. EI2 The Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Actof 2017 would enable the federal trade commission to hold the ultimate say onpractices of conversion therapy, which opponents perceive as undermining theauthority of parents and counselors.
In an interview regarding the prohibitionof conversion therapy in New Jersey, one opponent stated that, “This billprovides a slippery slope of government infringing upon first amendment rights”(Livio, 2013). Implementing H. R. 2119, would directly stop practitioners andorganizations from engaging in commerce for conversion therapy, whichindirectly precludes parents from allowing their children to participate insuch efforts. Thebill states that parents and LGBTQ members need to be protected from beingdefrauded by these commercial efforts because they are ineffective anddangerousEI3 . The stakeholders, which will formally beidentified in a later section, include parents, members, and supporters ofLGBTQ, medical and mental health professionals, religious and religious freedomorganizations, and practitioners and organizations of commercial conversiontherapy.
Public Reactions and Goals Voters for this bill will reflect ageneral consensus that conversion therapy is a fraudulent act because it isineffective and/or harmful and that parents and members of LGBTQ need to beprotected from such efforts. Voters in support may also reflect people instates without legislation banning commercial practices of conversion therapyor those who are interested in furthering their state’s legislative ban toinclude all conversion therapy efforts, instead of only prohibiting efforts onpeoples under the age of 18. EI4 Voters against this bill willreflect a population that believe conversion therapy is effective and/or necessaryand this may also include devout religious individuals who believe thathomosexuality is an illness or sin that needs to be cured or changed. Votersagainst this bill may also reflect a desire for less federal governmentintervention in the power of states, businesses, and/or organizations. Non-votersfor this bill would include uninformed individuals and individuals who wouldnot affected by the legislation including people in states with an alreadypresent ban on conversion therapy, people who are unable to vote, or people whoare not concerned and/or aware of the social problem. Mostmedial involvement in this issue is presented in news outlets with a majorityof liberal viewers and often reflects the proponent’s necessity to protectcitizens against the harm of conversion therapy. In an article written byGabriel Arana (2012) for The American Prospect, the author describes hisexperience of conversion therapy with the former president of NARTH andoutlines how the experience led to suicidal ideation and his eventual acceptanceas a gay man. In an article for Romper, the author explains the premiseof the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act, other state efforts, and urges readersto consider the detrimental effects of conversion therapy (Fratti, 2017).
SusanLivio posted an article (2013) that reported on an opponent who intended to sueNew Jersey’s republican Governor Chris Christie who passed legislation banningconversion therapy in the state. In another source Brammer (2017) reported thatthe Trump administration and the 2016 official republican platform seemed tosupport conversion therapy and the rights of parents to decide on suchtreatments. If the bill were to bepassed by the House of Representatives and Senate, media coverage might shiftto include more sources that have a larger conservative viewer base. As itstands the media coverage seems to leverage the support of a largely liberaldemographic, which may be because the major proponents of the bill includedemocratic candidates and medical scientific organizations. The goals of thepolicy focus on protecting LGBTQ people from the harmful effects of conversiontherapy, including youth and protecting their parents from being defrauded. Thepolicy is not specific to people under the age of 18, but the social issue hasa special pertinence for young people are who are more likely to undergotherapy, sometimes at the will of their parents (Just the Facts Coalition,2008). Because the bill is being issued as a federal amendment to the FederalTrade Commission, secondary goals include holding states accountable forregulating the commerce of this practice and shutting down organizations thatsupport conversion therapy.
Policies, Public Laws, and Administrative Rules The TherapeuticFraud Prevention Act of 2017 is intended to function as an amendment to theFederal Trade Commission Act in order to highlight conversion therapies as afraudulent practice. In section five of the Federal Trade Commission Act, consumersare protected from monetary transactions that include “unfair or deceptive actsor practices” (Federal Reserve, 2016). If Passed, H. R. 2119 would encouragethe Federal Trade Commission to specifically enforce its law against advertisementand practices of conversion therapy, which would be categorized as ineffectiveand harmful.
This bill was sent to the House of Representatives by theCalifornia democratic representative Ted Lieu in conjunction with a copy sentto the Senate by Washington’s Patty Murray and New Jersey’s Cory Booker (HumanRights Campaign, 2017). This bill, which was cosponsored by 102 democraticrepresentatives from a total of 28 states, was also submitted in 2015 under H.R.
2450, but died in the 114th congress and was not enacted Civic Impulse, 2017). New Jersey, California, New Mexico,New York, Oregon, Vermont, Illinois, and District of Columbia have all passedrelated legislation that prevent licensed mental health practitioners fromproviding conversion therapy on people under 18 years old, with many otherstates having introduced such legislation; however, the Therapeutic FraudPrevention Act would be the first federal prohibition on these therapies (UnitedStates Senate, 2017). According to a fact sheet released by Senator Lieu underthe House of Representatives (2008), if the bill is not passed practitioners willcontinue to collect, “Large sums of money for services that are completelyineffective and have caused serious side effects, such as depression,self-harm, and family rejection.” The consequences of such could be especiallyharmful to young people who are vulnerable in medical decision making and wouldcontinue to be exposed to these potentially dangerous practices (House ofRepresentatives, 2008).This bill is categorized asan amendment to the Federal Trade Commission Act and is thus concerned withconversion therapy as a form of fraudulent trade. The proponents of H.R.
2119maintain and undoubtedly believe that conversion therapy is a commerciallyfraudulent practice; however, the motive most thoroughly addressed in thefindings section is particularly concerned with banning a practice that causesmedical and psychological harm rather than financial harm. In fact, onlysubsections two, three, and five of the findings of the bill focus on thepractice of conversion therapy as being misleading in its purportedeffectiveness, with the latter still describing the treatment as, “Harmful andwholly ineffective.” In the other subsections of the findings, the billidentifies the status of LGBTQ individuals as non-pathological in nature (§2.1)and states the practice of conversion therapy as being “substantially dangerousto an individual’s mental and physical health” (§ 2.4).
In other words, thefindings section of this bill may suggest that the social problem is not merelyreflected in labeling the advertisement and practice of conversion therapy asineffective and fraudulent; instead, this piece of legislation suggests thatconversion therapy is a danger to the psychological and medical health of LGBTQindividuals and that it should be banned for the threat it poses to vulnerablemembers of society (Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act, 2017).Proponents of the bill whoalso oppose the practice of conversion and reparative therapies include the manydemocratic cosponsors of the bill, National Association of Social Workers,American Psychological Association, American Medical Association and severalother medical and mental health organizations included in the Just the FactsCoalition (2008). The World Health Organization and Pan American HealthOrganization (2012), who removed homosexuality from the InternationalClassification of Diseases in 1990, released a statement denouncing conversionand reparative therapies and stating that such practices, “lack medicaljustification and represent a serious threat to the health and well-being ofaffected people.” Other proponents of the H. R. 2119 include non- governmentLGBTQ alliance support groups such as: Human Rights Campaign, Truth Wins out,National Center for Lesbian Rights, and GLAAD. Opponents of this billinclude religious organizations such as Brothers on a Road Less Traveled(formerly the for-profit People Can Change), who offers retreats for men whoare voluntarily seeking to change their homosexual desires.
Other PredominantlyChristian organizations like the Family Research Council, American FamilyAssociation, Alliance Defending Freedom, and Focus on the Family who claim toprimarily support religious freedom practices have been criticized as beinganti-gay and even hate groups in some cases (Southern Poverty Law Center, 2005).The National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH)self describes themselves as a secular group of, “principled advocates forpersons experiencing unwanted sexual attractions”, who claim the effectivenessof conversion efforts through scientific research (Alliance for TherapeuticChoice and Scientific Integrity, 2015). NARTH has been largely criticized ashaving a religious agenda and using incredible research (Besen, 2009; Kort,2014).
The Proponents of H. R.2119 stand to gain a federal regulation that, when enforced, could protect thepeople in states that do not have outright legislation banning the practice ofconversion therapy.
The bill would also protect LGBTQ youth from the harmfuleffects of conversion therapy and their parents from being defrauded by anineffective practice. Opponents of efforts to ban conversion therapy would losethe ability to advertise and practice conversion therapy in a commercialsetting, which would discredit the efforts of these practitioners andultimately put them out of business if the bill is enforced by the FederalTrade Commission. Similarly, non-profit religious organizations supportingconversion therapy would not be able to advertise or run programs for conversiontherapy and the legislation could be perceived as an impingement of their rightto practice religious freedom. In contrast, nonprofit LGBTQ supportorganizations would gain the support of the federal government indepathologizing homosexuality and undermining the power of opposingorganizations like NARTH (H.
R. 2119, 2017). The bill currently still needs theapproval of both the House of Representatives and the Senate for it to moveforward in the legislative process, and if it fails to move forward, legislatorswill have to resubmit the bill for proposal, which is consistent with effortsmade to pass the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention act in 2015 (Civic Impulse, 2017).Implementation, Impact Assessment,and Public Expectations If the Federal Fraudulent PreventionAct of 2017 were enacted, the Federal Trade Commission, state assemblymen, andstate officials would be able to enforce a ban on all commercial practices andadvertisements of conversion therapy. Insome states without existing legislature prohibiting the practice of conversiontherapy, there may be conflicts between religious or conservative values thatsupport conversion therapy efforts and/or the decisions of parents,respectively. In this case, stateideology could potentially conflict with the values of the federal law;however, because the population being served has been largely acknowledged asvulnerable to the harmful effects of conversion therapy, many states are in theprocess or have already implemented similar protections for minors. As itstands, without the implementation of H.
R. 2119, LGBTQ youth, their parents,and other members of the LGBTQ community continue to be vulnerable to theharmful effects of conversion therapy and defrauded by deceptive advertisementsof an ineffective practice. The Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Actwas first introduced in 2015; however, due to its inactivity in congress, thebill died in the process and was not voted on. This is the second time that the bill has been sent to the House ofRepresentatives and the Senate, and there is no guarantee that this iterationof the bill will not suffer the same fate. If the bill is passed and theTherapeutic Fraud Prevention Act becomes law, proponents of the law would relyon the Federal Trade Commission and state officials to enforce the prohibitionof advertisement and practice of commercial conversion therapy.
Opponents ofthe policy would need to abide by the standards set by the Federal Tradecommission and abandon the practice of conversion therapy for financialpayment. EI1Citation? EI2Citation? EI3Youshould cite the bill here EI4Sinceno citation is here, I am assuming this is your thought and could representbias…always back up any claims with reputable citations!