Report: Anti-diversity group provided model for Iowa law restricting trans care for youth

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A parade participant holds the Transgender Pride flag during the 2022 Iowa City Pride parade and festival. – Jason Smith/Little Village

A nonprofit founded by a retired kidney specialist, who was previously best known for denouncing efforts to address racial discrimination in the medical profession, is a central player in promoting bans on gender-affirming care for transgender youth in states around the country, including Iowa, the Associated Press reports.

An analysis by the AP showed the ban on those medical procedures fast-tracked through the Iowa Legislature by Republican leaders, and signed into law by Gov. Kim Reynolds on March 22, was almost identical to the model bill produced by that nonprofit, Do No Harm.

There has been an explosion in bills targeting transgender individuals in the last two years, with more than 130 bills just targeting gender-affirming care for trans people under 18 introduced in 40 states. A team of AP reporters analyzed the text of those bills “for similarities to model bills peddled by the conservative groups Do No Harm, which also criticizes efforts to diversify staffing in medicine, and the Family Research Council, which has long been involved in abortion restrictions.”

Three states stood out from the rest: Iowa, Arkansas and Montana. All three states, which have Republican-controlled legislatures and Republican governors, have enacted bans on gender-affirming care for trans individuals under 18, regardless of parental wishes or if there is a consensus of treating physicians. The bills creating those bans have “passages identical or nearly identical to Do No Harm’s model legislation,” according to the AP.

Experts interviewed by the AP highlighted Do No Harms use of medical jargon in its model legislation and talking points as a means to spread misinformation.

“Every single line of this contains some sort of falsehood,” Dr. Meredithe McNamara, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the Yale School of Medicine, told the AP after reviewing Do No Harm’s work.

“My overall takeaway from this is that there are a lot of recycled false claims about gender dysphoria, standards of care, safety, evidence and medical authority which seems like it’s right out of the disinformation playbook.”

Proponents of the care ban in the Iowa Legislature relied on multiple false and discredited claims when promoting a bill that passed with only Republican support.

Dr. Jack Drescher, a Columbia University professor of psychiatry and the editor of the American Psychiatric Association’s diagnostic manual’s section on gender dysphoria, told the AP that Do No Harm distorted his work when it claimed to be citing the diagnostic manual in its model legislation.

“These bills are not at all interested in patient care,” he said. “These bills are designed to inflame.”

Dr. Stanley Goldfarb, a kidney specialist, founded Do No Harm following his retirement from the University of Pennsylvania’s Medical School in 2021. The nonprofit, which is incorporated in Virginia, originally focused on Goldfarb’s concerns that efforts to address the long history of racism in the medical profession were unnecessary and actually undermining care.

“This focus on diversity means we’re going to take someone with a certain skin color because we think they’re OK, that they can do the work. But we’re not going to look for the best and the brightest,” Goldfarb told the New York Post in 2022. “We’re going to look for people who are just OK to make sure we have the right mixture of ethnic groups in our medical schools.”

Do No Harm is still strongly focused on opposing efforts to address issues of structural racism in the medical community. According to its site: “The same radical movement behind ‘Critical Race Theory’ in the classroom and ‘Defund the Police’ is coming after healthcare.” But Goldfarb apparently also includes respect for transgender rights as another menace caused by what he calls “the new religion of ‘wokeism’” in his 2022 book Take Two Aspirin and Call Me By My Pronouns: Why Turning Doctors into Social Justice Warriors is Destroying American Medicine.

Neither Goldfarb nor Do No Harm would directly answer the AP’s question about their involvement in transgender care bans. Goldfarb did email a general statement that said, in part, “Do No Harm works to protect children from extreme gender ideology.”