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Pennsylvania Strengthens Stance Against Conversion Therapy

On May 2, 2024, five state regulatory boards in Pennsylvania adopted a policy opposing conversion therapy for minors and warning the individuals they license that they may be professionally disciplined for violating the policy. The Pennsylvania state Boards of Medicine, Psychology, Osteopathic Medicine, Nursing, and of Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists, and Professional Counselors, all voted to adopt the new policy that minors shall no longer be subjected to these widely discredited and abusive practices.

Conversion therapy, sometimes referred to as “reparative” therapy, is a pseudoscientific method of attempting to change a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression to align with heterosexual and cisgender norms. It involves the use of various methods, including religious counseling and aversion stimulation such as administering electric shocks or medication to induce nausea while exposing the individual to same-sex erotic imagery. The overwhelming consensus of the scientific community is that conversion therapy does not work, and it often causes severe long-term psychological harm.[1]

In Pennsylvania, an estimated 44 percent of LGBTQ+ youth, including 54 percent of trans and nonbinary youth, seriously considered suicide in the past year. The Trevor Project, an organization focused on suicide prevention efforts among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning youth (LGBTQ+), found in their research that young people ages 13 to 24 who reported undergoing conversion therapy were more than twice as likely to report having attempted suicide in the past year.[2] Banning conversion therapy could be quite literally the difference between life and death for our state’s young people.

In 2022, former Governor Wolf issued an Executive Order supporting the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex and asexual (LGBTQIA+) community, directing state agencies to discourage conversion therapy for people of all ages and to instead promote evidence-based practices for supporting LGBTQIA+ people. That Order directed that the Department of Human Services and other agencies ensure state funds are not used to provide or reimburse for conversion therapy.[3] The new policy goes a step further, allowing for professional discipline for subjecting minors to conversion therapy.

Governor Shapiro stated in a press release: “This decisive action makes clear that there is no place for the harmful, dangerous practice of conversion therapy here in our Commonwealth. We value real freedom here in Pennsylvania — and no matter what you look like, where you come from, who you pray to, or who you love, you should be able to express who you are and be free from harassment and discrimination. My Administration will continue working to make sure that everyone is protected, feels welcome, and can thrive in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”[4]


[1] https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00918369.2020.1840213

[2] https://www.thetrevorproject.org/survey-2024/

[3] https://www.oa.pa.gov/Policies/eo/Documents/2022-02.pdf

[4] https://www.governor.pa.gov/newsroom/shapiro-administration-announces-five-state-boards-have-adopted-new-policies-making-clear-that-conversion-therapy-on-lgbtq-minors-is-harmful-and-unprofessional/