- Sen. Rand Paul compared gender-affirming surgery for trans people to “genital mutilation” during a hearing for Dr. Rachel Levine.
- Levine, if confirmed by the Senate, will be the first openly trans official approved by the chamber.
- Some of Paul’s Democratic colleagues sharply rebuked his remarks.
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During confirmation hearings for Dr. Rachel Levine for assistant health secretary, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky conflated gender-affirming surgery with “genital mutilation.”
Paul on Thursday during a hearing before the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee questioned Levine on her stances regarding healthcare for transgender youth. In doing so, he attempted to correlate transition-related surgery with genital mutilation – a practice health officials have previously called a human rights violation that “has no health benefits.”
“Genital mutilation is considered particularly egregious because … it is nearly always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children,” Paul, a former ophthalmologist, said.
Paul then tried to portray Levine as a supporter of “surgical destruction of a minor’s genitalia,” asking her if she believed minors could make “such a life-changing decision as changing one’s sex?”
“For most of our history, we have believed that minors don’t have full rights and that parents need to be involved,” Paul said. “We should be outraged that someone’s talking to a 3-year-old about changing their sex.”
—Chris Johnson (@chrisjohnson82) February 25, 2021
Levine, a pediatrician and an advocate for hormone therapy, has never said children should receive gender reassignment surgery.
“Transgender medicine is a very complex and nuanced field with robust research and standards of care that have been developed,” Levine said in response to Paul. Levine also told Paul she’d further discuss the subject with him if confirmed by the Senate.
Levine, if approved, will become the first openly trans official confirmed by the Senate.
Paul’s comments led to immediate backlash from Democratic lawmakers, who supported Levine.
Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington and the chair of the Senate health committee, rebuked Paul’s questions.
“It is really critical to me that our nominees be treated with respect and that our questions focus on their qualifications and the work ahead of us, rather than on ideological and harmful misrepresentations like those we heard from Senator Paul earlier,” Murray said on Thursday.
Paul’s office did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
Levine, 64, is a professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at the Penn State College of Medicine. She also serves as the president of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.
In separate remarks on Thursday, Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer condemned Republican lawmakers speaking out against trans rights.
Republican “attacks on trans people and the transgender community are just mean,” Schumer said during an in-person press briefing. “And show a complete lack of understanding and a complete lack of empathy. They don’t represent our views, and they don’t represent the views of a majority of Americans. Their despicable comments just make my blood boil with anger. If I didn’t have a mask, you could see my teeth gritting.”