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Conversion therapy in state lawmakers' crosshairs

Delaware Public Media

Medical professionals offering conversion therapy in Delaware could lose their license under a new bill being considered in Dover.

“Conversion therapy is a pseudoscience that poses a risk to our LGBTQ youth and can lead to anxiety, depression, substance abuse and self harm," said Sen. Harris McDowell (D-Wilmington North), one of the lawmakers sponsoring the legislation.

Conversion therapy tries to coerce someone to alter their sexual orientation or gender identity, which McDowell calls “child abuse.”

The practice has been widely discredited as damaging by medical organizations, including the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and others.


It’s unclear if any practicing medical professional here offers the treatment.


“We’ve not been able to locate anybody who will admit to doing conversion therapy, but we are aware of national groups in other states that refer Delaware citizens to therapists in other states where the practice is not illegal,” said Mark Purpura, a board member of the pro-LGBTQ organization Equality Delaware.

Even referring a patient to a conversion therapy program could land that medical professional before a state disciplinary board should the bill pass.

Six states and Washington D.C. have banned the practice. Last year, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) forbid insurance companies in his state from covering conversion therapy and also banned state mental hospitals from offering such a program to minors.

A state Senate committee will consider the proposal first.