U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer, D-Dubuque, and State Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Marion

DES MOINES, Iowa – State Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Marion, the Republican nominee in Iowa’s 1st Congressional District race, provided an interview for Iowa Safe Schools’ Rainbow Forum back on July 15. They later interviewed the incumbent U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer, D-Iowa, last week on September 9.

Iowa Safe Schools is an LGBTQ advocacy organization whose mission is to “provide safe, supportive, and nurturing learning environments and communities for LGBTQ and allied youth through education, outreach, advocacy, and direct services.”

They asked Hinson about numerous issues, including whether or not she would support a conversion therapy ban. The Iowa Legislature had different variations of such a ban, and House Democrats are also considering a federal version.

“I don’t think it should be used on minors, and I wouldn’t support it in the Iowa House,” Hinson answered. “I know the bill didn’t move forward. Damien, you and I had met about that last year, and I don’t support it. And I think, you know, if you’re 18, you can make your own decision. But when it comes to kids, like that’s something that we need to protect, everybody should have a fair shake.”

“And I do think that there is a lot of learning still be to be done on this issue around the state of Iowa. I know you’ve been working about that, working on that throughout the state. So I think it’s an issue that’s it’s no brainer for me to be able to say that, not afraid to say it,” she said.

Monson and Thompson applauded her answer.

“(It’s a) great, great code chapter to protect the vulnerable. We need to just make sure that we educate people. I think everybody deserves to have the right to pursue life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Right. I mean, and that’s, that’s a simple constitutional issue to me. And that’s exactly where I am,” she replied.

Watch:

Caffeinated Thoughts reached out to the Hinson campaign, asking what she considered “conversion therapy.” 

“Ashley believes in religious freedom and parental rights, and she would not support the government telling counselors what they can say to their patients. Ashley opposes any type of abusive practices used as part of conversion therapy, such as ‘electroshock’. If a vote were to come before her on a specific ban of conversion therapy, she will research the issue and cast her vote according to her faith, her principles, and her experience as a parent,” Jimmy Peacock, a campaign spokesperson, told Caffeinated Thoughts.

Finkenauer gave a forceful response when asked about the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act during her interview, a bill she co-sponsors, which considers conversion therapy fraud and would be enforced by the Federal Trade Commission.

“Because it is fraudulent, it is literally should not be happening in this country. It shouldn’t be an option for parents. And quite frankly, the fact that it is still happening is offensive. And I was going to do what I could on the federal level to support the ban and also make sure that the bad actors, the organizations are still doing this or peddling this stuff, that they can be held accountable,” she said. “So that’s really where we, you know now, have empowered the Federal Trade Commission to step in and hold both accountable. And that’s really where there’s teeth in it finally. Right. And it’s, it should have happened a long time ago, banning this. And I think I’m trying to stay hopeful about the future and that we really can get these things done.”

Watch:

Caffeinated Thoughts posed the same questions to the Finkenauer campaign sent to the Hinson campaign, but they had not responded by the time of publication.

What Do Conversion Therapy Bans Do?

Currently, 19 states have conversion therapy bans codified in state law. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed an executive order on January 21, 2020, banning conversion therapy for minors by regulation. 

Supporters of bans state that conversion therapy with minors is not only ineffective but harmful.

Conversion therapy bans that have been introduced in Iowa based on model legislation that would prevent licensed mental health professionals from engaging in efforts to change a patients sexual orientation, gender expression, or gender identity.

Those who engage in such activity under legislation filed over the last two general assemblies would be subject to the licensing authority or disciplinary authority over the mental health provider.

The prohibition includes providers such as physicians and surgeons who specialize in psychiatry, a licensed marital and family therapist, licensed mental health counselor, licensed social worker, licensed school counselor, school psychologist, school social worker, advanced nurse practitioner, psychiatric nurse, and anyone else who provides counseling, mental health, and behavioral health services or practice under Iowa law or rule. It also includes students or volunteers who work under these professionals.

A bill offered this past session by State Rep. Bruce Hunter, D-Des Moines, defined “conversion therapy” as “any practice by a mental health provider that seeks to change an individual’s sexual orientation, including but not limited to efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions or gender identity, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex.”

This definition does not include “counseling or therapy that provides acceptance, support, and understanding of the individual or the facilitation of an individual’s coping, social support, and identity exploration and development, including sexual orientation-neutral interventions to prevent or address unlawful conduct or unsafe sexual practices.”

The Bans Don’t Just Stop Abusive Practices

Pro-family groups are concerned that these bans are overly broad. They don’t only cover controversial practices, such as electronic shock therapy and reparative therapy, but also talk therapy.

“Legislators should reject the proposal to outlaw voluntary talk therapy for people with unwanted same-sex attractions,” Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for Family Research Council, told this author in a previous article written for The National Pulse. “The provision purporting to protect minors from coercion is actually a form of coercion itself, since it will deny young people this care even if they desperately want it. Concerns about coercion could be addressed through a requirement for informed consent instead.”

“Unfortunately, many well-intentioned people have been misinformed on this issue. ‘Conversion’ therapy bans do more than advertised by actually limiting the free speech and religious practice of licensed therapists, denying minors health care they earnestly desire, and discriminating against a biblical view of human sexuality,” Drew Zahn, director of communications with The FAMiLY Leader, told Caffeinated Thoughts.

“Instead of regulating abusive so-called ‘treatments’ – such as forced vomiting, painful electric shock, or other physical cruelty, which nearly all Iowans, including TFL, would find repulsive for any reason – these laws criminalize a therapist who wishes to talk from a certain point of view. For example, a licensed counselor would not be able to encourage a minor that following God’s model of sexuality over their own desires is best for them,” he added. “No one wants to see people suffer abusive practices. But the government should be seeking to outlaw abuse, not outlaw a biblical worldview.”

Sprigg also addressed the bill co-sponsored by Finkenauer.

“Furthermore, the provision calling such counseling a ‘deceptive trade practice’ is itself deceptive. No scientific research has ever proven that such counseling causes more harm than any other type of therapy, and there is an abundance of evidence that it has been helpful for many,” he said.

Opponents of conversion therapy bans underscore the consequences.

“The unfortunate consequence will be to silence those who can offer hope and help to the struggling. Not everyone who finds themselves with same-sex desires wants to act upon them. Not everyone with gender dysphoria wants to change their bodies. No one is in favor of permitting abuse to masquerade as ‘therapy.’ But counseling bans are the wrong tool for addressing abuse,” Emilie Kao, Director of the Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Religion & Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation, told this writer for an article published in The National Pulse.

Dr. Michelle Cretella, executive director of the American College of Pediatricians, told Caffeinated Thoughts that conversion therapy bans require all mental health professionals to affirm even young gender-confused children as transgender.

“(This) guarantees that many minors will be permanently sterilized under the guise of treating gender dysphoria – a condition that would otherwise resolve in up to 95% of them with counseling that either affirms biological sex or promotes watchful waiting. This is criminal,” she said.

There are constitutional issues with conversion therapy bans as well. 

Sprigg said the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018 signaled in a decision that the First Amendment protects professional speech such as that of a therapist or counselor.

Also, government interference in the therapist-client relationship is problematic. 

“Individuals struggling with sexual attractions, addictions, and gender dysphoria deserve to have private conversations with the counselor of their choice free from government censorship,” Kao said.

“Members of the counseling profession should abide by their own traditional ethical principles and respect the client’s autonomy to determine their own goals for therapy,” Sprigg added.

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