Introduction and Commerce, who referred it to

Introduction

The Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act
of 2017, is a bill that was introduced to the House of Representatives on the
25thof April in 2017 with its companion S. 928 into the Senate. If
enacted, the bill would ban the commercial practice of conversion therapy and
label it as fraud (H. R. 2119, 2017). Mr. Ted Lieu, a democratic representative
of California, created the bill as an amendment to the Federal Trade Commission
Act in order to categorize conversion therapy and any advertisement of such
therapies as fraudulent, which would permit the enforcement of federal and
civil litigation against advertisers and practitioners (Washington 2017). Major
Proponents of the bill include LGBTQ support groups, democratic state
representatives, medical and mental health organizations, and the general LGBTQ
population. The opponents of the bill include orthodox religious organizations
and followers, practitioners and advertisers of conversion therapy, supporters
of religious freedom, and secular organizations arguing the effectiveness of
conversion therapy.

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 H. R. 2119 was submitted to the House of
Representatives and then referred to the House Committee on Energy and
Commerce, who referred it to the Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer
Protection where it currently remains active. If signed and passed as a federal
act, the Federal Trade Commission, state general assembly members, and other
state officials would be able to pursue civil action lawsuits in order to
protect the interest of citizens. The Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act asserts
that conversion therapy is ineffective and harmful to members of the lesbian,
gay, bisexual, transsexual, and queer community and that population their
parents must be protected from such acts of fraud. (H. R. 2119, 2017).  

 

Current Social Problem Context

The Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act
detailed several findings in the legislation that outline the context of the
social problem; however, in order to understand interpretations of the social
problem, it is first important to understand term “conversion therapy” as it is
defined within the bill. H. R. 2119 (2017) defines conversion therapy as any
practice in which a person acquires financial payment for treatment that
attempts to alter a person’s sexual preferences or sex identity. The bill
described this as, “another individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity,
including efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate or
reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the
same gender” (§ 3, 1.A). This definition does not include any practices that
aim to support individuals within the LGBTQ community and validate their
hardships, it exclusively pertains to programs that seek to make changes to a
person’s identity and characteristics as they are labeled above (H.R. 2119,
2017).

            The underlying
social problem that the Therapeutic Fraud Act of 2017 seeks to ameliorate is
that vulnerable people are being defrauded by the practice and advertisement of
conversion therapy. This
practice has been labeled by many medical organizations in the Just the Facts
Coalition to be explicitly dangerous and harmful to people and have been
reported to cause anxiety, depression, self-harm, and isolation between family
members. In the 2008 report, the coalition states that the premise of
conversion therapy efforts is based on pathological conceptualization of
homosexuality. EI1 They argue that conversion therapy
advocates present the practice as a cure for an illness that does not exist
stating: “all other major health professional organizations have supported the
American Psychological Association in its declassification of homosexuality as
a mental disorder in 1973” (P. 5). The report advises people not to participate
in conversion and reparative practices because being bisexual or homosexual is
not unhealthy or abnormal in any way (Just the Facts Coalition, 2008).

While the majority of the medical
community recognize same-sex discrimination as a scientifically significant
explanation for heightened levels of anxiety and depression (Just the facts
Coalition, 2008) opponents of the bill argue otherwise. According to the
Alliance for Therapeutic Choice and Scientific Integrity and the National
Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), the link
between discrimination and internalized homophobia is unclear and that
unhealthy mental health outcomes may instead be an inherent characteristic of
being homosexual. NARTH denies the World Medical Association’s implication that
conversion therapies are discriminatory and harmful in nature, claims there is
no scientific evidence that proves the harmfulness of such therapies, and
further suggests that such claims are based on “ideological and not scientific
grounds” (Rosik, 2013). The underlying issue disputed between opponents and proponents
of the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act then do not only surround arguments
about the effectiveness and harmfulness of conversion therapy, but also include
debates about social determinants of homosexuality and if such identities are
inherently pathological. Clearly stated, opponents may argue that homosexuality is
pathological and/or a choice that can be changed; whereas, proponents suggest
that homosexuality is not a choice and identifying as LGBT is not abnormal,
unhealthy, or changeable. EI2 

The Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act
of 2017 would enable the federal trade commission to hold the ultimate say on
practices of conversion therapy, which opponents perceive as undermining the
authority of parents and counselors. In an interview regarding the prohibition
of conversion therapy in New Jersey, one opponent stated that, “This bill
provides a slippery slope of government infringing upon first amendment rights”
(Livio, 2013). Implementing H. R. 2119, would directly stop practitioners and
organizations from engaging in commerce for conversion therapy, which
indirectly precludes parents from allowing their children to participate in
such efforts. The
bill states that parents and LGBTQ members need to be protected from being
defrauded by these commercial efforts because they are ineffective and
dangerousEI3 .  The stakeholders, which will formally be
identified in a later section, include parents, members, and supporters of
LGBTQ, medical and mental health professionals, religious and religious freedom
organizations, and practitioners and organizations of commercial conversion
therapy.

Public Reactions and Goals

            Voters for this bill will reflect a
general consensus that conversion therapy is a fraudulent act because it is
ineffective and/or harmful and that parents and members of LGBTQ need to be
protected from such efforts. Voters in support may also reflect people in
states without legislation banning commercial practices of conversion therapy
or those who are interested in furthering their state’s legislative ban to
include all conversion therapy efforts, instead of only prohibiting efforts on
peoples under the age of 18. EI4 Voters against this bill will
reflect a population that believe conversion therapy is effective and/or necessary
and this may also include devout religious individuals who believe that
homosexuality is an illness or sin that needs to be cured or changed. Voters
against this bill may also reflect a desire for less federal government
intervention in the power of states, businesses, and/or organizations. Non-voters
for this bill would include uninformed individuals and individuals who would
not affected by the legislation including people in states with an already
present ban on conversion therapy, people who are unable to vote, or people who
are not concerned and/or aware of the social problem.

            Most
medial involvement in this issue is presented in news outlets with a majority
of liberal viewers and often reflects the proponent’s necessity to protect
citizens against the harm of conversion therapy. In an article written by
Gabriel Arana (2012) for The American Prospect, the author describes his
experience of conversion therapy with the former president of NARTH and
outlines how the experience led to suicidal ideation and his eventual acceptance
as a gay man. In an article for Romper, the author explains the premise
of the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act, other state efforts, and urges readers
to consider the detrimental effects of conversion therapy (Fratti, 2017). Susan
Livio posted an article (2013) that reported on an opponent who intended to sue
New Jersey’s republican Governor Chris Christie who passed legislation banning
conversion therapy in the state. In another source Brammer (2017) reported that
the Trump administration and the 2016 official republican platform seemed to
support conversion therapy and the rights of parents to decide on such
treatments.

If the bill were to be
passed by the House of Representatives and Senate, media coverage might shift
to include more sources that have a larger conservative viewer base. As it
stands the media coverage seems to leverage the support of a largely liberal
demographic, which may be because the major proponents of the bill include
democratic candidates and medical scientific organizations. The goals of the
policy focus on protecting LGBTQ people from the harmful effects of conversion
therapy, including youth and protecting their parents from being defrauded. The
policy is not specific to people under the age of 18, but the social issue has
a special pertinence for young people are who are more likely to undergo
therapy, sometimes at the will of their parents (Just the Facts Coalition,
2008). Because the bill is being issued as a federal amendment to the Federal
Trade Commission, secondary goals include holding states accountable for
regulating the commerce of this practice and shutting down organizations that
support conversion therapy.

Policies, Public Laws, and Administrative Rules

            The Therapeutic
Fraud Prevention Act of 2017 is intended to function as an amendment to the
Federal Trade Commission Act in order to highlight conversion therapies as a
fraudulent practice. In section five of the Federal Trade Commission Act, consumers
are protected from monetary transactions that include “unfair or deceptive acts
or practices” (Federal Reserve, 2016). If Passed, H. R. 2119 would encourage
the Federal Trade Commission to specifically enforce its law against advertisement
and practices of conversion therapy, which would be categorized as ineffective
and harmful. This bill was sent to the House of Representatives by the
California democratic representative Ted Lieu in conjunction with a copy sent
to the Senate by Washington’s Patty Murray and New Jersey’s Cory Booker (Human
Rights Campaign, 2017). This bill, which was cosponsored by 102 democratic
representatives 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 passed
related legislation that prevent licensed mental health practitioners from
providing conversion therapy on people under 18 years old, with many other
states having introduced such legislation; however, the Therapeutic Fraud
Prevention Act would be the first federal prohibition on these therapies (United
States Senate, 2017). According to a fact sheet released by Senator Lieu under
the House of Representatives (2008), if the bill is not passed practitioners will
continue to collect, “Large sums of money for services that are completely
ineffective and have caused serious side effects, such as depression,
self-harm, and family rejection.” The consequences of such could be especially
harmful to young people who are vulnerable in medical decision making and would
continue to be exposed to these potentially dangerous practices (House of
Representatives, 2008).

This bill is categorized as
an amendment to the Federal Trade Commission Act and is thus concerned with
conversion therapy as a form of fraudulent trade. The proponents of H.R. 2119
maintain and undoubtedly believe that conversion therapy is a commercially
fraudulent practice; however, the motive most thoroughly addressed in the
findings section is particularly concerned with banning a practice that causes
medical and psychological harm rather than financial harm. In fact, only
subsections two, three, and five of the findings of the bill focus on the
practice of conversion therapy as being misleading in its purported
effectiveness, with the latter still describing the treatment as, “Harmful and
wholly ineffective.” In the other subsections of the findings, the bill
identifies the status of LGBTQ individuals as non-pathological in nature (§2.1)
and states the practice of conversion therapy as being “substantially dangerous
to an individual’s mental and physical health” (§ 2.4). In other words, the
findings section of this bill may suggest that the social problem is not merely
reflected in labeling the advertisement and practice of conversion therapy as
ineffective and fraudulent; instead, this piece of legislation suggests that
conversion therapy is a danger to the psychological and medical health of LGBTQ
individuals and that it should be banned for the threat it poses to vulnerable
members of society (Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act, 2017).

Proponents of the bill who
also oppose the practice of conversion and reparative therapies include the many
democratic cosponsors of the bill, National Association of Social Workers,
American Psychological Association, American Medical Association and several
other medical and mental health organizations included in the Just the Facts
Coalition (2008). The World Health Organization and Pan American Health
Organization (2012), who removed homosexuality from the International
Classification of Diseases in 1990, released a statement denouncing conversion
and reparative therapies and stating that such practices, “lack medical
justification and represent a serious threat to the health and well-being of
affected people.” Other proponents of the H. R. 2119 include non- government
LGBTQ alliance support groups such as: Human Rights Campaign, Truth Wins out,
National Center for Lesbian Rights, and GLAAD.

Opponents of this bill
include religious organizations such as Brothers on a Road Less Traveled
(formerly the for-profit People Can Change), who offers retreats for men who
are voluntarily seeking to change their homosexual desires. Other Predominantly
Christian organizations like the Family Research Council, American Family
Association, Alliance Defending Freedom, and Focus on the Family who claim to
primarily support religious freedom practices have been criticized as being
anti-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 for
persons experiencing unwanted sexual attractions”, who claim the effectiveness
of conversion efforts through scientific research (Alliance for Therapeutic
Choice and Scientific Integrity, 2015). NARTH has been largely criticized as
having 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 the
people in states that do not have outright legislation banning the practice of
conversion therapy. The bill would also protect LGBTQ youth from the harmful
effects of conversion therapy and their parents from being defrauded by an
ineffective practice. Opponents of efforts to ban conversion therapy would lose
the ability to advertise and practice conversion therapy in a commercial
setting, which would discredit the efforts of these practitioners and
ultimately put them out of business if the bill is enforced by the Federal
Trade Commission. Similarly, non-profit religious organizations supporting
conversion therapy would not be able to advertise or run programs for conversion
therapy and the legislation could be perceived as an impingement of their right
to practice religious freedom. In contrast, nonprofit LGBTQ support
organizations would gain the support of the federal government in
depathologizing homosexuality and undermining the power of opposing
organizations like NARTH (H.R. 2119, 2017). The bill currently still needs the
approval of both the House of Representatives and the Senate for it to move
forward in the legislative process, and if it fails to move forward, legislators
will have to resubmit the bill for proposal, which is consistent with efforts
made to pass the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention act in 2015 (Civic Impulse, 2017).

Implementation, Impact Assessment,
and Public Expectations

            If the Federal Fraudulent Prevention
Act of 2017 were enacted, the Federal Trade Commission, state assemblymen, and
state officials would be able to enforce a ban on all commercial practices and
advertisements of conversion therapy.  In
some states without existing legislature prohibiting the practice of conversion
therapy, there may be conflicts between religious or conservative values that
support conversion therapy efforts and/or the decisions of parents,
respectively.  In this case, state
ideology could potentially conflict with the values of the federal law;
however, because the population being served has been largely acknowledged as
vulnerable to the harmful effects of conversion therapy, many states are in the
process or have already implemented similar protections for minors. As it
stands, without the implementation of H. R. 2119, LGBTQ youth, their parents,
and other members of the LGBTQ community continue to be vulnerable to the
harmful effects of conversion therapy and defrauded by deceptive advertisements
of an ineffective practice. 

            The Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act
was first introduced in 2015; however, due to its inactivity in congress, the
bill died in the process and was not voted on. 
This is the second time that the bill has been sent to the House of
Representatives and the Senate, and there is no guarantee that this iteration
of the bill will not suffer the same fate. If the bill is passed and the
Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act becomes law, proponents of the law would rely
on the Federal Trade Commission and state officials to enforce the prohibition
of advertisement and practice of commercial conversion therapy. Opponents of
the policy would need to abide by the standards set by the Federal Trade
commission and abandon the practice of conversion therapy for financial
payment.

           

 

 EI1Citation?

 EI2Citation?

 EI3You
should cite the bill here

 EI4Since
no citation is here, I am assuming this is your thought and could represent
bias…always back up any claims with reputable citations!