The Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act would empower the FTC to crack down on so-called “conversion therapy”
Thursday, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), the top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), and 16 of their Democratic colleagues introduced the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act, legislation to classify “conversion therapy” as a fraudulent practice that would be illegal under the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) authority. This harmful practice has been widely discredited by nearly all major American medical, psychiatric, psychological, counseling, educational, and social work professional organizations. This bill would clarify that providing “conversion therapy” to any person in exchange for monetary compensation, or advertising such services, is an unfair and deceptive act or practice. Furthermore, this bill would explicitly clarify that the FTC has the responsibility to enforce this provision and would provide State Attorneys General authority to enforce this provision in federal court.
Earlier this year, Sens. Murray and Booker, and Representatives Jackie Speier (D-CA) and Ted W. Lieu (D-CA) sent a letter to Edith Ramirez, FTC Chairwoman, calling on the agency to take action using the agency’s existing broad enforcement authority to protect consumers and stop this harmful practice, citing the many damaging and long-lasting effects on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) children and youth. Under the Federal Trade Commission Act, the FTC has the responsibility to prevent business practices that are deceptive or unfair to consumers.
“So-called ‘conversion therapy’ is fraud, and it has no place in our country,” Murray said.“This bill would make it abundantly clear that the FTC can take swift action to put a stop to this deceptive and damaging practice. I will continue to push for ways to make sure all people, regardless of who they are or who they love, are treated equally and with respect.”
“This so-called therapy is harmful, especially to children,” said Booker, who last year introduced a Senate Resolution condemning the use of conversion therapy. “Our legislation will remove any question that the FTC and State Attorneys General have the tools they need to classify conversion therapy as what it is – fraud – and ban its use. Conversion therapy is a discredited, harmful practice that has been rejected by countless medical and mental health organizations for years. It has no place in our society.”
“The practice of so-called conversion therapy has been widely discredited by medical professionals, and evidence shows that it not only doesn’t work but also can have life-threatening consequences. It is nothing short of child abuse,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “It is past time this quackery is banned from coast to coast, and we applaud Senators Patty Murray and Cory Booker for legislation that gets us one step closer to that day.”
The legislation is co-sponsored by Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Richard J. Durbin (D-IL), Al Franken (D-MN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).
In 2009, the nation’s largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology, the American Psychological Association, conducted a systematic review of the evidence on sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE), commonly referred to as “conversion therapy,” “reparative therapy,” or “sexual orientation therapy.” The report concluded that “efforts to change sexual orientation are unlikely to be successful and involve some risk of harm, contrary to the claims of SOCE practitioners and advocates.” In 2015, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration published a report, which summarized the work of an expert panel. The report found, “that variations in sexual orientation and gender identity are normal, and that conversion therapies or other efforts to change sexual orientation or gender identity are not effective, are harmful, and are not appropriate therapeutic practices.”
California, Illinois, New Jersey, Oregon, and the District of Columbia have enacted laws to protect young people from these harmful practices by prohibiting licensed mental health practitioners from conducting conversion therapy on minors. More than 20 states, including Washington state, have introduced similar legislation. New York has an administrative policy against the practice.